Thursday, July 31, 2008

WellPaying Contributor to Blagojevich Back in the News

A couple of years ago, reports in the Tribune, Crain's, and the State Journal Register linked five bundled donations to Gov. Blagojevich's campaign with the All Kids health insurance program and the contract to manage it. New reports out today suggest that pattern may be repeating itself, this time in Florida.

Today's news report indicates that WellCare is "the biggest campaign contributor to Republican state House candidate Will Pruitt " and that "Pruitt received 20 separate $500 contributions, the limit for individual contributions, from WellCare Health Plans Inc. and its subsidiaries: WCG Health Management, Comprehensive Logistics, Comprehensive Health and Healthease."

If that sounds familiar, it should. On Nov. 21, 2005, WellCare made 5 separate $20,000 donations to Gov. Blagojevich's campaign. Those donations, made through subsidiaries including WellCare Health Plans Inc and WCG Health Management, came less than a week after the Governor signed into law his All Kids insurance program.

WellCare also hired Blagojevich protégé John Wyma in August of 2005; in January, 2006, another WellCare subsidiary, Harmony Health Care, hired Wyma, and has retained Wyma ever since.

At the time they hired Wyma and made the $100K in donations to the governor's campaign fund, Harmony Health Care held a $99M contract with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. That contract grew to $110M n FY07, $150M in FY08, and $162M in the current fiscal year. That's almost a two-thirds increase in their contract value in just three short years.

There may be more. According to Forbes, WellCare is under investigation by the FBI for possible Medicare fraud in Florida and Illinois. The company has acknowledged errors in both states.

Is there a pattern of bundling donations through subsidiaries to win state contracts? Either way, it's time to cut the connection between campaign money and state contracts.

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