Thursday, July 30, 2009

Feds Bust Medicare Fraud Ring In Houston Area

HOUSTON—Federal authorities arrested 27 people in Houston Wednesday in a major Medicare fraud bust that spanned across the country.

Medicare fraud raid

Investigators claim the suspects were scamming Medicare by falsely billing for medical items that were not needed or never used.

Arrests were also made in New York, Boston and Louisiana. In all, 32 people were taken into custody.

More than 200 agents worked on Wednesday’s $16 million bust, which included 12 search warrants at health care businesses and homes across the Houston area.

One of those businesses was Memorial Medical Supply on Dairy Ashford and I-10.

Shocked employees were met by federal agents when they arrived at work.

Federal agents raided several locations in Houston after a nationwide investigation into Medicare fraud.
The agents confiscated paperwork and a computer.

They were also seen removing boxes of evidence from the business.

Federal authorities say the businesses were giving patients “arthritis kits,” which were nothing more than expensive orthotics, including knee and shoulder braces. Patients told authorities they were unnecessary, and many never used them. But health care clinic owners billed $3,000 - $4,000 for each kit.

Houston’s other scam involved billing Medicare for thousands of dollars worth of liquid food for patients who can’t eat solids. Authorities said clinic owners never distributed the food to patients. In some cases, clinic owners billed patients who were dead when they allegedly received the items.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Regents point the way on college budget

The Alvin Community College Board of Regents provided direction to administrators to complete the 2009-2010 Maintenance and Operations Budget at a regular meeting immediately following a budget workshop on July 23.

The proposed 2009-2010 budget of $23,930,941 represents a 3.45 percent increase over last year and will include funds for two new instructors, to address the growth in dual credit courses at local high schools, a salary step adjustment for eligible employees and a two percent salary adjustment only for approximately 76 full-time employees who have no more step increase options due to their long length of employment and qualifications.

The balance of the increase “has a lot to do with fixed costs…that we don’t have any control over (such as utilities, fees, insurance, etc.),” ACC President Dr. Rodney Allbright said.

Due to the approval of Texas House Bill 4586 in June, ACC recently received $2,358,771 in natural disaster relief funds from the state to address damage caused by Hurricane Ike, Allbright reported.

“This is really good news,” he stated. “We didn’t receive enough insurance to cover the reconstruction.”

In an effort to save money, the college has been acting as general contractor for the campus reconstruction project and recently completed Building A.

Prior to finalizing and approving the budget and college district tax rate, regents are waiting for the Brazoria County Appraisal District to issue a certified effective tax rate.

Allbright recommended that the board call for a special meeting as soon as the effective tax rate is established in order to meet numerous legal requirements prior to anticipated budget approval near the end of August.

The budget is funded by three main sources, including state appropriations, tuition and fees and local tax revenues.

In other matters, ACC Broadcast Communications Department Chair Bill Lewis made a presentation to the board in preparation for the upcoming Southern Association of Colleges and Schools reaffirmation of accreditation, which is required every 10 years. Lewis provided information regarding the training, certificates and degree options currently offered in radio and television broadcasting at the college.

“As someone who does a lot of listening on the outside,” ACC Board Chairman L. H. “Pete” Nash said to Lewis, “you guys have a really excellent reputation.”

For the next approximately 15 months, presentations will be made to board members that will cover the programs and services available at ACC. Information from these presentations will be included in the application for reaffirmation.

During the meeting, regents also approved: acceptance of retirement letter from ACC Texas Department of Criminal Justice program instructor Lew Garrett; renewal of the Victory insurance policy in the amount of $86,238 (for 19 months); renewal of deposit bank contract with First National Bank; renewal of Internet Blackboard/WebCT contract in the amount of $33,100 (for three years); budget revisions in preparation for the closure of the 2008-2009 fiscal year; 2009-2010 Carl Perkins Basic Grant in the amount of $244,939; authorization for proposed budget expenditures necessary for the start of the fall semester; personnel appointment of Saul Olivares as a new foreign languages instructor; replacement of desktop computers damaged by Hurricane Ike; financial report ending June 30; and the check register.

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