Honoring Tubman

Harriet Tubman to Replace 

Andrew Jackson on $20 Bill

By Cheryl Eichar Jett


Tubman in the late 1860s. B.F. Powelson photo
    (RP News) - Feb 10, 2021 - Thanks to President Joe Biden's administration, the image of abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman is once again slated to grace the front of the U.S. $20 note, with Andrew Jackson moving to the back side of the bill, a symbolic move not lost on activists and history fans.

During the last year of the Obama administration, then-Secretary of the Treasury Jacob “Jack” Lewis announced the move, which was intended not only to reflect the history and diversity of the U.S, but to acknowledge the changing times and mores in which we recognize and respect that diversity. “With this decision, our currency will now tell more of our story and reflect the contributions of women as well as men to our great democracy,” Lewis said in a letter to the American people, quoted in an NPR article dated April 20, 2016.

In 2019, the project was shelved by then-President Donald J. Trump, blaming a mere attempt at political correctness for the project's existence. Of course, Trump was (and probably still is) quite the admirer of Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of New Orleans, which more or less ended the War of 1812. He also served in both houses of Congress and as two-term president from 1829 to 1837.

But Jackson may be most remembered as a wealthy, slave-owning planter who was a proponent of the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which forced thousands of Cherokee from their homelands in the Southeastern U.S. to what was then the Oklahoma Territory. Forced into what became known as the Trail of Tears, the cruel conditions during their round-up resulted in most of the Cherokee being ill-prepared, without proper clothing or supplies, to withstand the harsh 1838-1839 winter. Thousands died before they reached Oklahoma.

A prototype Harriet Tubman bill. Public domain photo.
    In contrast, whereas Jackson was a powerful, much-lauded white male, Harriet Tubman was an enslaved African American woman on a plantation in Maryland. In 1849, she escaped the plantation where she lived and worked and made her way to Pennsylvania. But later on, she risked her life to make more than a dozen trips back to Maryland to assist family members and other slaves to freedom. As the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, she was responsible for bringing hundreds of slaves to freedom in the North. Tubman went on to serve in various roles, including as a spy, for the U.S. Army during the Civil War, and later worked for the betterment of impoverished former slaves and became involved in the women's suffrage movement.

Ironically, even the choice of the $20 denomination bill for Tubman's image strikes a historical note. According to NPR in their April 20, 2016 article, a petition from the activist group Women on 20s to President Obama included the following: "We'll note that Tubman's appearance on the $20 bill would have a special historical resonance: That's the same amount she eventually received from the U.S. government as her monthly pension for her service as a nurse, scout, cook and spy during the Civil War, as well as for her status as the widow of a veteran."

You may be asking, “How was Harriet Tubman selected for this honor?” During the Obama administration, the Treasury organized a poll to select an important woman in American history to grace a new version of the $10 bill. Tubman was selected through the poll as most significant, followed by the decision to leave the $10 bill alone, which honors Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury. Lin-Manuel Miranda, of the hit Alexander Hamilton show fame, was decidedly against removing Hamilton from the $10 bill. Treasury Secretary Lewis was also a Hamilton fan. The project moved to the $20 bill, with Tubman up front on the bill, pushing Jackson to the back of the bill.

The final hurdle to getting Tubman onto a newly-designed $20 note will be the completion of a new high-speed printing facility, which the U.S. Treasury needs in order to produce modern currency with robust security measures as part of the design and production. Although the debut of the Tubman note was originally intended to coincide with the centennial in 2020 of the 19th Amendment, which prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex, the eventual release of the new bill will be a welcome recognition of Tubman, icon of the Underground Railroad.

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Andrew Jackson

Criminal Scheme

CEO Sentenced for $150M 

Health Care Fraud and 

Money Laundering Scheme

TEXAS - (USAO-Texas Southern) - 2/7/2021 - The CEO of a Texas-based group of hospice and home health entities was sentenced Feb. 3 to 15 years in prison for falsely telling thousands of patients with long-term incurable diseases they had less than six months to live in order to enroll the patients in hospice programs for which they were otherwise unqualified, thereby increasing revenue to the company.

    Henry McInnis, 50, of Harlingen, Texas was convicted by a federal jury in Brownsville,Texas, in November 2019 of one count each of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, obstruction of justice, as well as six counts of health care fraud.

McInnis’s co-conspirator, Rodney Mesquias, 50, the owner of the hospice and home health entities, was also convicted following the November 2019 trial. He was sentenced to 240 months in prison in December 2020. Two other co-conspirators have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

“McInnis, as CEO of the company, directly oversaw a reprehensible criminal scheme that involved the submission of over $150 million in fraudulent bills, the falsification of patients’ medical records, and the payment of unlawful kickbacks,” said Acting Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “McInnis preyed upon some of the most vulnerable members of our society, including many who suffered from diminished mental capacity and who were falsely and cruelly told by co-conspirators that they had only months to live. Today’s significant sentence demonstrates the department’s continued commitment to pursuing individuals, at all levels of corporate management, who engage in criminal schemes that prioritize profits over patient care.”

From 2009 to 2018, McInnis, Mesquias and others orchestrated a scheme that involved the submission of over $150 million in false and fraudulent claims for hospice and other health care services. McInnis served as the top corporate officer and administrator and oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Merida Group, a large health care company that operated dozens of locations throughout Texas.

McInnis had no medical training and worked previously as an electrician. However, he acted as the de facto director of nursing for the Merida Group. Witnesses at trial testified McInnis directed employees to admit unqualified patients to hospice and home health, keep unqualified patients on services for long periods of time and fired and reprimanded employees who refused to participate in the scheme.

McInnis also oversaw and enforced a company-wide practice of falsifying medical records to conceal the scheme. Multiple witnesses testified McInnis ordered employees to alter medical records to make it appear patients were terminally ill. In reality, some were employed or even participating in sporting events. The jury also heard that McInnis explained the purpose of the falsified records was to allow the Merida Group to pass insurance company audits.

As CEO, McInnis also adopted a policy that paid illegal kickbacks. They directed bribes to physicians under the guise of medical director fees to certify unqualified patients for hospice and home health. In some cases, they improperly offered payoffs to marketers in exchange for recruitment of patients who could be placed on extremely expensive hospice services.

HHS-OIG, FBI and Texas Health and Human Services Commission conducted the investigation. Assistant Chief Jacob Foster and Trial Attorney Kevin Lowell of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Swartz of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.

The Fraud Section leads the Health Care Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Health Care Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for nearly $19 billion. In addition, HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

“McInnis and his co-conspirator’s reprehensible and deceitful actions to defraud Medicare weren’t without harm: vulnerable beneficiaries were unnecessarily enrolled in hospice care, preventing them from accessing needed curative care,” said Special Agent in Charge Miranda L. Bennett, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Dallas Region. “With our law enforcement partners, we will continue to investigate those who put ill-gotten profits above the well-being of patients in our health care system.”

Illinois COVID-19 Update

More Than One Million 

COVID-19 Vaccines 

Administered in Illinois

Regions 8 and 9 on track to move to Phase 4 on Feb. 3

SPRINGFIELD – 2/3/2021 – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) recently reported 2,304 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 47 additional deaths. These include:

  • Boone County: 1 female 70s

  • Champaign County: 2 females 80s

  • Clinton County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 90s

  • Cook County: 2 males 50s, 1 female 60s, 5 males 60s, 3 females 70s, 4 males 70s, 1 female 80s, 5 males 80s, 1 female 90s, 1 male 90s

  • Lake County: 1 male 40s, 1 male 50s

  • Madison County: 1 male 60s, 2 males 70s, 2 females 80s, 1 male 80s, 2 females 90s

  • McHenry County: 1 male 70s

  • Monroe County: 1 male 70s

  • Montgomery County: 1 female 70s

  • Saline County: 1 female 70s

  • St. Clair County: 1 male 50s

  • Stephenson County: 1 female 70s

  • Will County: 2 females 70s, 1 female 90s

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 1,130,917 cases, including 19,306 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 60,899 specimens for a total 16,161,454. As of last night, 2,447 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 533 patients were in the ICU and 265 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from January 26–February 1, 2021 is 3.9%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from January 26–February 1, 2021 is 4.9%.

A total of 1,455,825 doses of vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago. In addition, approximately 496,100 doses total have been allocated to the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities. This brings the total Illinois doses to 1,951,925. A total of 1,028,969 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight, including 163,592 for long-term care facilities. The 7-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 44,139 doses. Yesterday, a total of 32,559 doses were administered.

If all the mitigation metrics continue to improve, regions 8 and 9 will move into Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan on Wednesday, February 3, 2021.

* All data are provisional and will change. In order to rapidly report COVID-19 information to the public, data are being reported in real-time. Information is constantly being entered into an electronic system and the number of cases and deaths can change as additional information is gathered. For health questions about COVID-19, call the hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email dph.sick@illinois.gov.