Monday, January 02, 2006

UMDNJ Gets its Federal Monitor

The latest flurry of stories about the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is about the official appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the University's finances and management.

We have now posted about UMDNJ many times, most recently here. The story began with allegations that UMDNJ had offered no-bid contracts, at times requiring no work, to the politically connected; had paid for lobbyists and made political contributions, even though UMDNJ is a state institution; and seemed to be run by political bosses rather than health care professionals. More recently, the stories have centered on allegations that the University defrauded Medicare and Medicaid; multiple resignations of many top UMDNJ managers; "golden parachutes" given to departing managers who more recently have been targets of investigation; and charges that UMDNJ executives tried to cover some of this up.

Now UMDNJ Trustees have voted to approve an agreement which gives UMDNJ a federal monitor. He is Herbert J. Stern, a former federal judge and prosectuor. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, which has doggedly pursued this story, the agreement admits "UMDNJ's hospital deliberately defrauded the federal and state Medicare and Medicaid programs of at least $4.9 million." The University also agreed to reimburse all over-billed amounts; let the monitor review a variety of administrative and financial issues, including billing, contracts, salaries, bonuses, and security; and allow the monitor to hire new managers of legal issues and compliance.

Coverage of these latest developments included some notable quotes:

The University has too much prestige to let its history be rewritten by the mistakes of a few. - Acting NJ Governor Codey.
I'm glad everything is out in the open. It's time to get started on a new road. We need to take care of the students, the patients, and the community. - Mary Mathis Ford, UMDNJ Board of Concerned Citizens (see link here).
So New Jersey now follows the footsteps of the Teamsters union, another organization so corrupt that a federal takeover was deemed necessary. What an honor. - Newark Star-Ledger editorial.
In a state known for corruption, back-room deals and no-show jobs, what went on at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey is more than criminal: it is obscene. - Herald News (NJ) editorial.
I still [worry] ... that they're not going to go all the way, and it's all going to come back. - Adam Hennick, former UMDNJ vice president who tried to uncover over-billing (see link here).
This case unfortunately illustrates how widely greed and sleaze have infiltrated the management of US health care organizations, and how slow our reaction to unethical behavior by health care leaders has been.

Maybe the scope of the problem at UMDNJ, which, unlike some other nasty cases, has been covered a bit by regional media (see the latest New York Times article) and wire services (see articles from the Associated Press and Bloomberg) will make more physicians, policy makers and other citizens realize how low things have sunk.

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