Law and Politics

Groups Sue After Louisana Legislature 

Overturns Governors Veto 

of Congressional Map

    LOUSIANA - (ACLU) - 3/30/2022 - The Louisiana Legislature has voted to overturn Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of the congressional map passed earlier this year, which failed to add a second majority-Black district.

    In response, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of Louisiana, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP filed a  lawsuit on behalf of the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, and individuals Press Robinson, Dorothy Nairne, E. RenĂ© SoulĂ©, Alice Washington, and Clee Ernest Lowe challenging the map as a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

    “The congressional map passed by the Louisiana Legislature in February rejected basic principles of fairness and equity,” said NAACP Louisiana State Conference President Michael McClanahan. “The Legislature knew that they could pass a map that complied with the Voting Rights Act and honored the will of community members who stood up and spoke out for fair maps during the redistricting process. When they failed to, the governor rightfully vetoed their unlawful and unfair map. We are going to federal court to demand a map that honors the rights and representation of Black Louisianans. We will be tireless in this fight.”  

    Louisiana’s voting-age population is nearly one-third Black. Under the Legislature’s map, Black Louisianans comprise the majority in only one of the state’s six congressional districts.

    With voting patterns in Louisiana breaking down starkly along racial lines, the result is that congressional candidates supported by the vast majority of Black voters never succeed in any of the five other districts. The result is underrepresentation of Black voters in Louisiana’s congressional delegation, with Black voters having an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice in only one — or 16.7% — of the districts.

    Simultaneously, Louisiana’s white population is dramatically overrepresented. While only 58% of Louisiana’s population is non-Hispanic white, white voters — whose votes also break down along racial lines in most of the state—control the outcome in five out of six — or 83.3% — of the districts under the maps. That control has meant that no Black candidate has won election to any of those seats since the 19th century. Governor Edwards recognized this disparity and rightfully vetoed the legislature’s proposed map because, as he stated, it was “not fair to the people of Louisiana and does not meet the standards set forth in the federal Voting Rights Act.” 

    “People from every corner of Louisiana made their voices heard in the redistricting process in a unified call for fair and representative maps,” said Ashley Shelton, president and CEO of Power Coalition for Equity and Justice. “They demanded a second majority-Black congressional district because the math is simple, and the law is clear. One-third of Louisiana voters are Black. One-third of six is two. The Voting Rights Act requires that Black voters have an equal opportunity to participate in our political processes, and our maps must reflect this. The governor did the right thing by vetoing the map and we hope the courts will now intervene to right the wrongs of the Legislature. The people of Louisiana deserve maps that represent all of us and no longer drown out the voices of Black voters.”

Crime and Justice

Addiction Treatment Facility 

Operators Sentenced 

in $112M Fraud Scheme

    (DOJ) - 3/21/2022 - Two brothers who operated multiple South Florida addiction treatment facilities were sentenced to prison Friday for a $112 million addiction treatment fraud scheme that included paying kickbacks to patients through patient recruiters and receiving kickbacks from testing laboratories.

    “These substance abuse treatment facility operators, through brazen tactics driven by greed, took advantage of vulnerable patients seeking treatment,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “These sentences demonstrate the department’s unwavering commitment to protecting patients and prosecuting fraudulent substance abuse treatment facilities through our Sober Homes Initiative.”

    Jonathan Markovich, 37, and his brother, Daniel Markovich, 33, both of Bal Harbour, were sentenced in the Southern District of Florida to 188 months and 97 months in prison, respectively.

    According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, the defendants conspired to unlawfully bill for approximately $112 million of addiction treatment services that were medically unnecessary and/or never provided, which were procured through illegal kickbacks at two addiction treatment facilities, Second Chance Detox LLC, dba Compass Detox (Compass Detox), an inpatient detox and residential facility, and WAR Network LLC (WAR), a related outpatient treatment program. The defendants obtained patients through patient recruiters who offered illegal kickbacks to patients, including free airline tickets, illegal drugs, and cash payments. 

    The defendants shuffled a core group of patients between Compass Detox and WAR in a cycle of admissions and re-admissions to fraudulently bill for as much as possible. Patient recruiters gave patients illegal drugs prior to admission to Compass Detox to ensure admittance for detox, which was the most expensive kind of addiction treatment offered by the defendants’ facilities. In addition, therapy sessions were billed for but not regularly provided or attended, and excessive, medically unnecessary urinalysis drug tests were ordered, billed for, and paid. Compass Detox patients were given a so-called “Comfort Drink” to sedate them, and to keep them coming back. Patients were also given large and potentially harmful amounts of controlled substances, in addition to the “Comfort Drink,” to keep them compliant and docile, and to ensure they stayed at the facility.

    “To manipulate and exploit patients seeking help in their most vulnerable state is unacceptable,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “These individuals orchestrated a scheme that sought profits over the well-being of patients, and they will be held accountable for their actions. With the help of our law enforcement partners, the FBI continues to investigate, bring down these criminal enterprises, and protect our citizens.” 

    After a seven-week trial in November 2021, both defendants were convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. Jonathan Markovich was convicted of eight counts of health care fraud and Daniel Markovich was convicted of two counts of health care fraud. They were also both convicted of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks and two counts of paying and receiving kickbacks. Jonathan Markovich was separately convicted of conspiring to commit money laundering, two counts of concealment money laundering, and six counts of laundering at least $10,000 in proceeds of unlawful activities. He was also convicted of two counts of bank fraud related to fraudulently obtaining PPP loans for both Compass Detox and WAR during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The FBI’s Miami Field Office, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the Broward County Sherriff’s Office investigated the case.

    Senior Litigation Counsel Jim Hayes and Trial Attorney Jamie de Boer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case.

    The National Rapid Response Strike Force, Miami Strike Force, and Los Angeles Strike Force lead the Department of Justice’s Sober Homes Initiative, which was announced in the 2020 National Health Care Fraud Takedown to prosecute defendants who exploit vulnerable patients seeking treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction.

Economic Issues


Report: Nursing Homes Under

Serious Financial Stress

Mike Moen, Producer
Public News Service

    (PNS) - 3/5/2022 - South Dakota continues to grapple with staffing shortages at nursing homes, and a new report found some might not be able to recover financially.

    The findings, issued this week by the American Health Care Association (AHCA), showed between 32% and 40% of nursing-home patients in the U.S. live in facilities considered financially "at risk." Separate reports showed close to half of South Dakota care facilities are dealing with staffing shortages.

    Mark Deak, executive director of the South Dakota Health Care Association (SDHCA), said it is a dangerous mix in trying to provide quality care for the state's older residents.

    "The pandemic has just exhausted our caregivers and nursing homes," Deak observed. "Certainly, it's hit other providers in the health-care sector as well, but not as hard as it's hit nursing homes."

    While staffing shortages existed before the pandemic, the AHCA report noted other factors add to the challenge, including higher operating costs, which have prompting calls for better Medicaid reimbursement rates.

    Deak acknowledged South Dakota recently increased its rate by 10%, but it still lags behind other states.

    Advocates argued when a skilled-nursing home does not have enough money to recruit and retain staff, it creates a domino effect. Deak worried there will not be enough options, because the facilities are struggling to operate.

    "You can't take folks that are being discharged from the hospital or who need your services," Deak pointed out. "It makes it very difficult, and sometimes, it gets to the point where, in fact, you have to close your doors."

    According to the SDHCA, nine nursing homes in South Dakota have closed over the past five years. Deak added it creates big problems especially in smaller communities, where these facilities are key contributors to the local economy.

    References: Nursing staffing report American Health Care Assn. 03/02/2022

Story credit: Mike Moen, Public News Service, 3/4/2022