June 7, 2013

Former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr.? Guilty. Former council chairman Kwame Brown? Guilty. Now a forthcoming guilty plea from former council member Michael Brown. The D.C. Hall of Shame keeps growing. Who’s next?

Jeffrey E. Thompson, the alleged financier of a “shadow campaign” that benefited Mayor Vincent C. Gray in the 2010 Democratic primary, warrants attention from more than a federal grand jury and U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen. Taxpayers in the District should keep tabs.

Thompson was also the sole owner of D.C. Chartered Health Plan, a business that had been the city’s dominant Medicaid provider, serving more than 100,000 low-income residents.

It’s fair to say that the city’s health-care system has been compromised by the collapse of D.C. Chartered, which was forced into receivership last fall after auditors found financial irregularities and low funding reserves. A small army of local health-care providers have been saddled with unpaid claims.

To keep the system afloat, the city government — and that means D.C. taxpayers — will have to make good on D.C. Chartered’s obligations.

The list of District health-care providers and the amounts they are owed, as of May 31, is jaw-dropping. The top 10 providers and their claims:

●Children’s National Medical Center, $8,355,320

●George Washington University Hospital, $6,175,576

●Washington Hospital Center, $2,936,966

●George Washington-Medical Faculty Associates (MFA), $2,559,645

●United Medical Center, $2,169,570

●Howard University Hospital, $2,139,818

●Providence Hospital, $1,780,232

●Children’s National Medical Center-MFA, $1,199,432

●Georgetown University Hospital, $1,069,724

●D.C. Fire Department, $973,223

That’s more than $29 million.

And these entities aren’t the only providers that have been left holding the bag. In all, D.C. Chartered’s outstanding Medicaid claims amount to $42.9 million, according to Wayne Turnage, director of the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance.

Records show that other debts include more than $3.7 million for medical group practices; $1 million for ambulance services; $646,979 for individual practitioners; and more than $5.3 million for contracted services such as pharmacies, labs, dentists, behavioral health and intensive case-management services.

And, as if jeopardizing the local health-care system weren’t bad enough, the city-appointed receiver handling D.C. Chartered filed a lawsuit last week charging Thompson and the holding company he wholly owns — D.C. Healthcare Systems Inc. — with siphoning nearly $17 million from D.C. Chartered, as The Post’s Mike DeBonis reported.

Make no mistake, Thompson’s operations hurt real people trying to do good things. (It should be noted that Thompson has not been charged with any crime.)

A health-care provider in the District wrote to me after last week’s column comparing charitable groups and Thompson’s activities: “There is another group not mentioned in your column — the for-profit medical and dental providers who have provided sorely needed healthcare for needy residents in DC, especially east of the Anacostia River. Many of us do not have the deep pockets of Medstar and cannot afford the non-payment of health claims due to the demise of Chartered Health Plan and the machinations of the Gray administration which has not come forward with a solution. . . . The next time you hear about the dearth of healthcare providers east of the river from politicians, I am asking you to pointedly ask them, WHY IS THIS?”

To say this provider’s complaint has fallen on deaf ears in city hall would be inaccurate. Gray announced in April that the city was devising a plan to bring relief to the providers stuck with unpaid bills.

That intention was emphatically echoed in a telephone interview this week with a Gray administration official who is familiar with the city’s negotiations with D.C. Chartered’s appointed receiver and the federal government.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told me Wednesday: “We are working fast and furiously to reach an appropriate settlement with the receiver that would allow us to access federal dollars to pay 70 percent of the provider claims. We will have to use 30 percent of District taxpayer dollars to secure the federal match.”

Gray, the official said, was “also very supportive of the receiver’s suit against Thompson to recoup some of the funds which appear to have been drained from Chartered inappropriately.” The D.C. attorney general’s office, the official said, “is also looking at its own suit against Thompson.

“As distasteful as it is to have to spend any District dollars to pay for bills we think Chartered should have paid, leaving these providers — especially the smaller community-based providers who serve some of our most vulnerable residents — unpaid and at risk of shutting their doors is simply not an option,” the official said.

So, Ron Machen, make room.

Jeffrey Thompson is the District’s problem, too.

Read more from Colbert King’s archive.