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Medicaid provider expands to Flushing after fraud trial – QNS.com

Medicaid provider expands to Flushing after fraud trial

By Alex Robinson

A Florida-based Medicaid plan provider, whose former chief executive officer was recently sentenced to prison on health-care fraud charges, has opened a new location in downtown Flushing.

The WellCare Health Plan Flushing facility is part of a recent expansion under the firm’s Interim CEO Dave Gallitano, who has been tasked with lifting the company past its recent history.

The Flushing “Welcome Room,” at 135-16 Roosevelt Ave., will offer health-care information and services in a variety of different languages, including Mandarin and Cantonese. Visitors will be able to get online to search for more information, enroll in WellCare plans, ask questions about Medicare and Medicaid and find out if they are eligible for extra benefits.

WellCare offers a variety of health plans for families, children, seniors and the disabled, as well as prescription drug plans.

“Queens’ population is growing, particularly in neighborhoods such as Flushing,” said City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), who attended the facility’s grand opening. “With this growth, comes an increased demand for access to quality health-care services. WellCare’s expansion into Flushing could not come at a better time.”

WellCare has 22 facilities throughout New York, Connecticut, Florida and Texas. The firm served approximately 93,000 Medicaid users and 50,000 Medicare users in New York, as of March, and more than 3.5 million members nationwide.

“We are proud to offer the people of Flushing and Queens a new resource that will provide health information in a culturally relevant way,” said John Burke, president of WellCare New York. “One way we will do this is by supporting the Asian community with services available in Cantonese, Mandarin, Shanghai, Fujianese and Taiwanese.”

WellCare Health Plan, one of Tampa Bay’s largest publicly traded companies, faced years of legal trouble after federal agents raided its offices and arrested ex-CEO Todd Farha in 2007.

Farha has since been convicted, along with two other former WellCare executives, of orchestrating a scheme to defraud the Florida Medicaid program between 2003 and 2007, the office of A. Lee Bentley III, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, said.

During that time, the three former executives submitted fraudulent expenditure statements to the state Medicaid program for behavioral health-care services, Bentley’s office said. Farha was sentenced to three years in prison after he was found guilty of two counts of health-care fraud.

The company was separately ordered to pay $40 million in restitution and forced to forfeit another $40 million to the federal government, Bentley’s office said. WellCare also agreed to pay $137.5 million in civil fines and penalties, according to Bentley’s office.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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