A legislative watchdog group agreed Monday to delve deeper into the state Department of Correction’s awarding of a $200 million-plus contract to handle inmate health care to a relative newcomer despite its $6.4 million higher bid, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Fiscal Review Committee members want the winner of the contract, Centurion LLC, to come before the panel in September.
Correction Department officials went before Fiscal Review for approval of their request to extend the current contract of Brentwood, Tenn.-based Corizon until Sept. 30 to provide Centurion additional time to prepare taking over the service.
While the business at hand was the 90-day extension of Corizon’s existing contract, committee members devoted most of their time questioning Centurion’s winning of the new three-year contract.
Corizon, which had the existing contract, lost the competition to Centurion on the new three-year contract. Corizon protested but two state panels upheld the award to Centurion, the most recent coming in a June 6 ruling.
Recently, Correction Department officials said, Corizon indicated it would not push the protest further by going to court.
Lawmakers criticized the request-for-proposal process and raised concerns about the higher cost and what they see as the recently created Centurion’s relative lack of experience.
Rep. Tim Wirgau, R-Buchanan, said it raises “red flags” for him.
“Give me some reasons why you decided to spend $6.4 million more,” he told Wes Landers, chief financial officer for the Correction Department.
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, was highly critical of Centurion’s experience.
“That seems a little shady there,” Faison said, adding that the state either had standards or not in awarding points in the request-for-proposal process for experience.
In remarks both during the committee and afterward, Wes Landers, the Correction Department’s chief financial officer, defended the decision to go with Centurion.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a licensed physician, was reprimanded and fined by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners for having sex with patients before he was elected to Congress, according to documents released Thursday.
The Republican won re-election last year despite revelations he had affairs with patients and once urged one of them to seek an abortion.
He was fined $500 for two counts of unprofessional conduct, and is responsible for up to $1,000 in costs for the panel’s investigation. He did not contest the findings
The ruling comes in response to two complaints filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which called the penalties “piteous.”
“This decision demonstrates that Tennessee’s ban on sexual exploitation of patients is essentially meaningless,” Melanie Sloan, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “Doctors in the Volunteer State can freely prey on patients with little fear of repercussions.”
The watchdog group has also filed an ethics complaint in the U.S. House.
DesJarlais did not immediately return a message seeking comment from The Associated Press. But the congressman told The Tennessean newspaper: “I take responsibility for past mistakes and am happy to get this resolved.”
DesJarlais nevertheless called the complaint politically motivated, saying it’s “somewhat ironic” that he had gone without any complaints filed against him in the 20 years he practiced before his election to Congress.
DesJarlais has already drawn two Republican challengers in advance of next year’s primary. State Sen. Jim Tracy and state Rep. Joe Carr have far outraised the incumbent through the first quarter of the year.
During his 2010 and 2012 campaigns, DesJarlais tried to cast doubt on reports of violent behavior and multiple affairs before his divorce was finalized in 2001. But court transcripts released the week after the election showed he admitted to eight affairs, encouraged a lover to get an abortion, which he publicly opposes, and used a gun to intimidate his ex-wife during an argument.
The sworn testimony also revealed for the first time that the congressman had agreed when his ex-wife had two abortions.
— Note: The CREW press release is below.
Tennessee’s biggest health insurer helped ensure its own fiscal health last year by boosting net income by more than 26 percent and swelling its reserves to more than 50 percent above what is legally required, reports the Chattanooga TFP. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the state’s biggest nonprofit corporation with $5.6 billion in annual revenues, said Monday it earned record profits of $221.5 million during 2012. Even with its income gain last year, BlueCross officials said the 4 percent profit margin was still the lowest among the major health insurers operating in Tennessee.
“As a tax-paying, not-for-profit company we can operate on a lower profit margin than the investor-owned companies in our industry, but we still try to maintain a small profit margin to ensure we can continue to serve our customers and remain financially strong,” BlueCross Vice President Roy Vaughn said. “I think our customers want us to be strong financially and to do well so that they know they can depend upon our services.”
Embattled U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., has told a Nashville television station WKRN that state Health Department investigators have already spoken to him about complaints that he had sex with at least two patients, one of whom he urged to get an abortion in 2000. “You know I have talked to constituents back home and for the most part, people I have talked to have been very supportive, pleased with the job I did in the last Congress,” the congressman told Nashville’s News 2 as he begins his second term.
“We saw a lot of TV both nationally, and certainly here in TN with a lot of politics of personal destruction I think people are ready to focus on the problems at hand.”
All this follows the Tennessee Democratic Party releasing the Pro-Life Congressman’s 2001 divorce transcripts shortly after his November re-election by 12-points over Democrat Eric Stewart.
It showed that while practicing medicine, DesJarlais dated a few patients, urged of one to get an abortion, and consented to an abortion for his then-wife.
DesJarlais has said in “God has forgiven him,” and “has asked constituents and fellow Christians to do the same.”
“I think that as you go through life, we make mistakes, and learn from them,” he said Friday. “We try to move on and be better for it. Sometimes in life, fortunately, we are given second chances.”
The divorce records also drew a medical ethics complaint with the Tennessee Department of Health from the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
“Again, this is a 13 to 14 year old issue and I am working with them in full cooperation,” said DesJarlais.
He was asked if he had recently met with the Tennessee Health Department officials. “Yes, they had some questions and I answered them.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state’s largest physician organization is making some staff changes for the new year.
The main one that takes effect this week is the move of Russ Miller from executive vice president of the Tennessee Medical Association to chief executive officer.
Miller is a veteran public relations and marketing professional who has been with TMA since 1987. He takes over for Don Alexander, who is retiring after 40 years with TMA.
The organization represents 8,000 physicians and medical students statewide and is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the state Legislature.
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester says the party is filing its own separate medical ethics complaint against U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais to ensure state health officials have the physician’s own sworn testimony that he had sex with patients, reports Andy Sher. “We … are doing what we do to protect Democrats and Tennesseans,” Forrester said shortly before heading to the state Department of Health to file the complaint (on Thursday).
He said, “I want to be sure that this agency has, in Scott DesJarlais’ words, the fact that he had sex” with at least two patients and gave one of them prescription drugs.
During the Jasper lawmaker’s fall campaign, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a similar complaint against DesJarlais based on his actions a dozen years ago. That complaint was based on reports from the Times Free Press and other news outlets
Political action committees connected to the health industry gave a combined $71,000 to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ successful re-election effort, according to the Chattanooga TFP. But at least six PACs that gave to DesJarlais’ 2012 campaign, including local insurance giants BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Unum, said they won’t give again in 2014. “Anytime you support someone, you have an association with them,” BlueCross spokesman Roy Vaughn said. “That becomes difficult if their behavior is something that doesn’t reflect well on your organization.”
Another half-dozen PACs representing health professionals, hospitals, nursing homes and health insurance companies said they haven’t decided on DesJarlais. The remaining 15 that donated to the physician-turned-congressman did not respond to a Chattanooga Times Free Press inquiry.
DesJarlais said he plans to seek a third term in 2014.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington responded Wednesday to new allegations against U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, again asking state medical authorities to investigate its ethics complaint against the physician-turned-congressman, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “Who knows how many more women are out there, wary of coming forward for fear of embarrassment?” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a news release. “If Tennessee expects its doctors to follow the ban on sexual misconduct, the Board of Medical Examiners must take swift action.”
DesJarlais is a Republican running against Democrat Eric Stewart in the 4th District congressional race. On Oct. 12, the watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against DesJarlais after a phone transcript showed the anti-abortion Republican urging an unnamed patient with whom he had an affair to get an abortion in 2000.
CREW’s latest letter comes after a second woman told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that she dated DesJarlais while he was her doctor. She recalled marijuana use between the two and said he prescribed her pain medication on dates at his home.
— Note: The CREW news release is below
News release from state attorney general’s office:
The Court has ordered HRC Medical Centers, Inc. (HRC) to temporarily halt certain claims and contractual practices related to its “bio-identical” hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) known as Amor Vie, Tennessee Attorney Bob Cooper announced today.
The Davidson County Circuit Court order comes after the Attorney General’s Office filed suit on Monday against HRC for allegedly making unsubstantiated health claims and failing to advise consumers of possible risks and side effects associated with HRC’s BHRT Amor Vie.
Also named in the lawsuit are Don Hale, owner and officer of HRC, Dan Hale, former owner and officer of HRC as well as an osteopathic doctor at HRC, and HRC Management Midwest, LLC, which owns an HRC clinic in Memphis. A temporary injunction hearing is set for 1 p.m. on October 19th.
“We are grateful to the court for this action as this concerns the safety and health of many Tennesseans,” Attorney General Cooper said. “We urge Tennesseans who may have used HRC Medical’s BHRT to contact their personal health care providers about any possible adverse effects that may be associated with BHRT.”
HRC consumers should contact this office at 615-741-1671 in order to report any side effects or adverse health effects from BHRT they received at any HRC center in Tennessee. However, the Attorney General’s office cannot provide any health or medical information to individuals.
Doctor John Dreyzehner, Tennessee Health Commissioner, announced Monday that Doctor Karen Cline-Parhamovich will serve as Tennessee’s chief medical examiner, effective July 1st, reports the Bristol Herald Courier. Cline-Parhamovich currently works as the Director of Forensic Pathology for ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine. She served as the Interim Chief Medical Examiner and Deputy Chief Medical Examiner since December 2010.
Cline-Parhamovich said she looks forward to making sure the state’s autopsy process is as efficient as it can be. “It’s going to expand my responsibilities to be more involved in developing initial education as well as continuing education for local county medical examiners and medical investigators,” said Cline-Parhamovich.