Feds raid Universal Health Care in St. Pete, launch fraud case

11:04 PM, Mar 28, 2013   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida - They showed up without warning.

No employees knew they were coming.

It was like a scene out of a movie, some say, when well over a dozen federal and state agents raided the downtown headquarters of Universal Health Care in St. Petersburg.

"They yelled out 'raid' when they came in. It's like something you see on TV, not at your job," one employee said.

Employees were told to stop what they were doing, move away from their computers and leave the building. Some were interviewed, others were sent outside where dozens of their co-workers were milling about in a state of shock and panic.

Other co-workers just showing up to the office on Central Avenue couldn't believe what they saw. They stood there, mouths open and speechless.

"It's not every day you drive up and federal agents are all over the building. We couldn't even get in," one woman told 10 News.

Other employees say it was "surreal."

As of today, 800 people are out of a job, and federal agents have now officially launched a national healthcare fraud investigation.  

The Feds are expected to be at the Universal offices for days-going through computers and files after accusations, sources say, that the HMO over-billed, and possibly defrauded the government.

Some employees tell 10 News they suspected the "higher-ups" of mismanagement.

"I just can't believe that the higher, higher management didn't know. I just can't believe that," said Helen Pantuso. "Those of us who have worked here forever now have nothing."

Michelle Yancey, who is also an employee, told 10 News, "This is just crazy. There are good people here."

On March 21st, Leon County Judge Charles Francis ordered Universal Health Care, Inc. into receivership. In addition, just this morning, Judge Francis also ordered Universal Health Care Insurance Company into receivership. The Florida Department of Financial Services is the appointed Receiver of both companies.

Both companies currently have been placed in receivership for purposes of rehabilitation.

However, there is a harsh deadline approaching.

The aforementioned companies will automatically go into liquidation officially at 12:01 a.m. next Monday, April 1st.

The former CEO of Universal Health Care, A.K. Desai is a big player in the Republican Party with ties to former President George W. Bush and Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, to name a few.  There are numerous photographs of him featured on the internet with those famous politicians, among other ones with him and Governor Rick Scott.

Universal filed for bankruptcy reorganization on February 6th.  Employees were told last week that, basically, come Friday, they would be out of a job.

One man told 10 News, "I never thought it'd go down like this,"

Universal Health Care has approximately 100,000 total members with approximately 60,000 being Medicaid members, and 40,000 having Medicare. 

Universal Health Care Insurance Company has approximately 37,500 Medicare policyholders. 

The Universal Companies' parent organization, Universal Health Care Group, has HMO entities in Texas and Nevada. However, they are not impacted by these Florida receivership orders.

Consumers with questions regarding coverage issues during the rehabilitation should continue to contact the Universal companies' consumer assistance representatives at 1-866-690-4842.

As of the liquidation date on April 1st, all impacted consumers with questions should contact the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) if they have Medicare policies with either of the Universal companies.

Or, if they are Medicaid members of the Universal HMO, they should contact the Agency for Healthcare Administration at 1-866-467-4970 if in Broward, Baker, Clay, Duval and Nassau Counties. 

Medicaid recipients in all other counties should call 1-888-367-6554. 

Additionally, over the next week, Medicare and Medicaid members who were enrolled in the two Universal companies will be sent letters by either CMS or AHCA that explain their options for continued health care coverage after April 1st. 

Both Universal Health Care Insurance Company and Universal Health Care, Inc. are based in St. Petersburg, FL. Universal Health Care Insurance Company was licensed in 25 additional states.

For non-claims related questions regarding the receivership, consumers are asked to contact the receiver by using the "Contact Us" form at the receiver's website, www.myfloridacfo.com/Receiver.

You can also call the Florida Department of Financial Services, as receiver, at 1-800-882-3054 (in Florida only) or (850) 413-3081.

Follow 10 News Reporter Melanie Michael on twitter @WTSPMelanie

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