McCollum Linked to WellCare Case - Attorney

10/05/10 Kimberly Vlach
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The attorney representing the main whistleblower in the Federal civil lawsuit against WellCare Health Plans has filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court, asking to bar Attorney General Bill McCollum from making any decisions on the proposed $137.5 million settlement. Why? They say McCollum failed to investigate more than $400 million in fraud against Florida’s Medicaid program due to a "conflict of interest."

"We’d sit in this room and think about the leadership’s bonuses…and we’d say to ourselves, we can’t shoot these people. – Can we?" said Sean Hellein, the U.S. Justice Department’s lead whistleblower in the civil lawsuit against Wellcare. He was a senior financial analyst at the health care provider and gave the FBI documents, emails and recorded conversations collected over the course of 18 months.

"Our taxpayer dollars aren’t getting to where they’re supposed to. And our politicians know this. And they certainly don’t want this to go away," Hellein added.

Tampa-based attorney Barry Cohen says WellCare contributed $2.6 million to the state’s Republican party and Republican candidates between 2004 and 2007, making it the single largest private donor to state GOP.

"Bill McCollum doesn’t have the right to enjoy the public trust…he has a conflict of interest," Cohen stated.

He says McCollum received nearly $1 million through donations by Wellcare that were channeled through the Republican party into McCollum’s campaign in 2006, when he ran for Attorney General.

McCollum has no business representing the people of the state of Florida in this Wellcare matter, Cohen said.

Cohen also cites McCollum’s failure to stop state legislation that would allow WellCare to spend less on care to Medicaid patients. He says this legislation allowed them to hide and pocket an excess profit of $23 million that was allocated from the state’s Medicaid coffers.

They came up with all these schemes so that they didn't have to pay the money back, said Cohen.

The attorney says that contributions from Wellcare and its subsidiaries to the Republican party and the committee members of this Senate Bill totaled $219,000.

"What did McCollum do when this bill was being passed? Did he say to the citizens of this state, whom he's supposed to protect, 'Hey! That’s not right!' ? Hell no, he didn't do that. ...This is a system that needs to be stopped," Cohen said.

The legislation was ultimately vetoed in 2007 by Governor Charlie Crist.

The state Attorney General’s office commented on the Supreme Court filing by saying: "We are waiting on further direction from the court."

Meanwhile, Amy Knapp, spokesperson for Wellcare said the company is “firmly committed to strict compliance with the letter and the spirit of the laws and regulations governing political activities.”

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