Lawyers Ask That Florida AG be Disqualified From Suit


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Florida’s Attorney General Bill McCollum looks to sign off on a $137.5 million settlement with Wellcare Health Plans, Inc. The civil suit arises from a whistleblower complaint. The lawyer for the lead whistlewhblower has asked the Florida Supreme Court to disqualify AG McCollum for making the settlement. The petition to bar AG McCollum was cited in a BusinessWeek news report.

Whistleblower Sean Hellein, who helped the government during the investigations, believes that because McCollum and the Republican Party (to which McCollum belongs) have both taken contributions from Wellcare Health Plans, Inc. he is not in a suitable position to handle the civil case and should be barred.

While Tampa, FL based Wellcare wants to settle for claim made under the False Claims Act and has paid $80 million to avoid criminal prosecution, it does not appear to be enough to cover the amount taken. According to Barry Cohen, the lead attorney for Hellein, WellCare stole more than $400 million from the state between 2002 and 2007 in a “systematic raiding” that “could not have occurred without the knowledge and help of certain public officials.” Those officials would seem to include McCollum, who recently lost the Republican primary for governor and will be leaving office in January.

An Associated Press analysis of campaign records shows that WellCare, its subsidiaries and executives gave $2.4 million to Florida politicians and parties in the 2004 and 2006 elections. More than 95 percent of it went to Republicans. Of that sum about $60,000 was earmarked for McCollum’s 2006 attorney general campaign.

The Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush enacted a plan that funnels more state and federal Medicaid spending through private companies like WellCare during that time period. Critics say these companies profit most when they provide the least care to patients.
Hellein, who was a financial analyst at Wellcare, wore a wire for more than a year to help the FBI investigation.

State Republican party spokesperson Daniel Conston refuted the claims stating “The RPOF simply does not earmark contributions nor would a contribution cause a GOP leader to turn a blind eye to a potential crime.”

Hellein and his attorney currently await a decision on the matter of barring AG McCollum from the case.



Miami Herald



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