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The Profit in Nonprofits, Phoebe Factoids and 2 men in Albany, GA

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 Surgeon Dr. John Bagnato stands outside Puntney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Ga.

Surgeon Dr. John Bagnato stands outside Puntney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Ga  {{First link, below…}}

NOT-FOR-PROFIT hospitals are actually for-profit hospitals, according to the new documentary Do No Harm. Rebecca Schanberg, who produced and directed this insightful film, tells the story of the two men who blew the whistle on Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Ga

Charles Rehberg, a certified public accountant, and John Bagnato, a surgeon, are two ethical, humble and honest guys who stumble across financial information showing that Putney Hospital has $2.6 billion in cash and transferred millions to offshore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands.

. . . And I stumbled across that video on late-night TV…

ONE OF MY MORE IMPORTANT POSTS, if you “GET” this.  Why are our states broke and cutting back welfare?  No really, why? 

Didn’t we give the IRS, at the office, at our faith institution or charity, aren’t we upstanding citizens?  Aren’t we Democrats (Republicans, Independent), don’t we volunteer at the local schools?  So why are the schools, social services, and such always so broke, and the prisons so full that the Guv (CALIF) says, let’s send ‘em back to Mexico (and isn’t really kidding about that)…  Who’s kidding WhoM?

Well maybe some people got this information in high school or college, or shortly thereafter, but I didn’t.  I’ve been working for nonprofits (but much smaller ones) most of my adult professional life too.  Then after leaving abuse, I finally started seeking some help from them.  Actually, after entering the family law system, that’s when I REALLY needed nonprofit help.    . . . But it’s an almost impenetrable system at many levels

This article points to partly, why. 

OK, pay attention folks (those who want to make a difference in the family court arena — this affects why some of us remain broke, even if our family isn’t stuck in a lawsuit, or has lost someone to domestic violence, or years to investigating child abuse, etc.  This is why you can NOT leave it up to the nonprofits or the experts and get about your way hoping someone else will.  At least, so I maintain.

There may be hope if enough people will follow THIS angle of approach, and let go of the pathos element, which, though real, isn’t going to move a judge who is in a system of bribes, and should NOT move judges anyhow — they are to judge facts, evidence, and law.

Because of this format and my time, I can only post brief links.  If you have some bloodhound left in you, or can smell the trail, I most certainly am putting out footprints, and more than enough breadcrumbs on this blog to help others.  MOreover, because I am currently also dealing with renewed stalking (what else is “new” in this situation), I’m highly motivated to put up what I learn shortly after I learn it, and worry about format later, if all. 

I’ve been wanting to post about the Phoebe Factoids, Dr. John Bagnato, and CPA Charles Rehberg in Albany Georgia.  What two men who have some research skills (and a livelihood, obviously) can do.  They also later hired gold-star (and later, in prison for attempting to bribe a judge — this seems to be kind of routine, I am starting to learn) Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, who won lawsuits against tobacco and asbestos. 

They then became themselves the subject of retaliatory charges, and worse, such that they ALSO had to hire a bodyguard for the family.  Good grief!

So you might want to consider that in the next crusade to audit a large corporation…

These two men (a Dr. who simply wanted to set up a private practice, and an attorney), were also discovering, in shock, about the state of NONprofit hospitals in Georgia (and with ramifications across the United States), was not only how very, very profitable it was indeed, but how the ample profit made by nonprofits was not exactly motivating them to help the poor and needy.  IN fact a whole different standard applied there….

They used GUIDESTAR.  They researched, and kept on probing. 

Lightbulbs went off in my brain as to what’s going on in the (1) Healthy Marriage/Fatherhood/Abstinence/Access Visitation arena (themselves out of control, and still recruiting people to justify those ongoing grants) and (2) on the converse side, by now, the Domestic Violence folk, TOO! 

Especially as I was just this past week attempting to get help from one of them, whose recruitment brochure was in the courthouse.  Another recruitment brochure for the fatherhood stuff was in a local food bank, which didn’t exactly make my day — either having to go there, or finding recruitment flyers to help more women have the troubles I’ve had in the same system…

I BELIEVE that if enough INDIVIDUAL CITIZENS had the courage to audit, report, and confront, we’d to a lot more than the complaining, testifying, and expecting the system to self-correct.  Come on, folks, has that ever been the way of any government since the start of government?  And nonprofits are taking government funding (and are, obviously, tax-exempt) — this includes religious institutions, too — and are giving some of it back in the form of services.  I said SOME…..

Here are some links.  This is all over the web, and you can certainly look into it yourself also, and (I say) should.   And do this BEFORE you refer a friend or relative to the local shelter, domestic violence advocacy agency, or anything NONprofit that is recruiting people to get helped by it.  Nonprofits are not answerable to their clients (they just need warm bodies), they are answerable to their funders.  GOT THAT?  It’s still business, just a different structure.

OK (by the way, I’m not a socialist, though that’s where this article appeared):

(1)

The for-profit non-profits

Helen Redmond reviews the new documentary Do No Harm, which exposes how millions of dollars are made in “non-profit” health care.

June 17, 2009 | Issue 700

Surgeon Dr. John Bagnato stands outside Puntney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Ga.  (PHOTO above)

NOT-FOR-PROFIT hospitals are actually for-profit hospitals, according to the new documentary Do No Harm. Rebecca Schanberg, who produced and directed this insightful film, tells the story of the two men who blew the whistle on Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Ga.

{{READ the whole link….}}

Rehberg and Bagnato discover that the hospital charges the uninsured more than the insured and aggressively hounds and sues patients who can’t pay. As a result, thousands of patients have had their wages garnished, leaving many of them destitute. This is how hospital executives get rich–on the backs of poor, uninsured patients.

. . . 

And then, just like in a John Grisham novel, things get legal, ugly and scary. Rehberg walks out to the parking lot after work one night, and a vehicle pulls up and blocks his car. Two men jump out, identify themselves as FBI agents, call out his name and say that they have been investigating him. The men–who in reality were no longer with the FBI–say they work for Putney and ask him to get in their car and go to a meeting. If he cooperates, they promise the hospital won’t file a lawsuit against him.

Wisely, Rehberg doesn’t get in the car. As they leave, he’s warned, “If you’re not smart enough to do this for yourself, you should for your wife Wanda and your lovely family.” A bodyguard is hired to watch over Rehberg’s family.

Bagnato receives suspicious e-mails and phone calls from someone who hangs up every time he and his wife pick up, and the lock in his front door falls out.

The scare tactics and intimidation don’t work, and Bagnato and Rehberg hire Dickie Scruggs, the famous lawyer, who filed a class-action lawsuit against the tobacco companies and won one of the largest settlements ever.

Putney Hospital lawyers go on the offensive and file a lawsuit for $66 million against Rehberg. Next, the two men are indicted on trumped-up, ludicrous criminal charges of burglary, assault and harassing phone calls. Eventually, the charges are dismissed.

. . .

DO NO Harm exposes an aspect of the health care crisis that, until recently, few had heard of. Many assumed that non-profit hospitals operated as good Samaritans and delivered lots of free or low-cost care to the uninsured. But 85 percent of hospitals in the U.S. are non-profit, and most go after patients who don’t pay their medical bills by suing them, garnishing their wages and putting liens on their homes.

According to the documentary, in Maryland alone from 2003 until 2008, non-profits filed 132,000 lawsuits, won $100 million in judgments and put liens on 8,000 homes. It is little wonder why the majority of people who file for bankruptcy do so because of they are unable to pay their medical bills.

The class-action lawsuit that Bagnato and Rehberg filed forced a few hospitals to provide more free and discounted care to the uninsured. The tax-free status of “non-profit” hospitals that make millions in profits is now being questioned across the country.

For example, the University of Chicago Hospital receives almost $58 million in state and federal tax breaks but only provides about $10 million in charity care. A grassroots coalition in Chicago is fighting to make the hospital provide more free care to the poor and uninsured.

Bagnato and Rehberg’s persistence and courage to speak up on behalf of patients being fleeced by rich, non-profit hospital corporations should be an inspiration to all of us fighting for fundamental health care reform. We need more whistle-blowers like them.

You GOT that?

While we fight over He Said/She Said, Father’s Rights, Mother’s Rights, etc. (and a good fight it is)  WHO Is laughing their way to the bank, in some cases, or working in nonprofits without realizing (middle level, street level, caseworker level) what is actually happening, long-term to the clients served, and where the funds are going.    Check out the IRS, and then get things AUDITED.  If you dare.  

And if you don’t dare, then the next time someone is tempted to, again, make the inane comment “why doesn’t she just leave?”  “Why can’t they just get along?”  and so on, DON’T.  How’d you like to stand up to, and “out” an in-home terrorist?  Well, maybe she doesn’t like to, either.  Maybe she’s brave, but doesn’t want family members or associates hurt.  These guys hired a bodyguard; they COULD because somehow, they still had income.  I suspect they had their families standing behind them at night..   etc.

(2)

Here’s the website to the documentary:

(from “About the Film” page):

Rebecca Schanberg

Daniel Alpert

Susanne Suffredin

Dana M. Kupper

Do No Harm tells the story of two reluctant whistleblowers in a small Georgia town who endure relentless attacks as they struggle to draw national attention to hospital corruption and the plight of the uninsured.

At the center of this story is Phoebe Putney, a non-profit hospital in Albany, Georgia whose influence is felt by most residents – everyone knows someone who works at Phoebe, owes Phoebe money, or who has been to the hospital for treatment. In 2003, Dr. John Bagnato and accountant Charles Rehberg stumble upon evidence that the hospital is overcharging uninsured and indigent patients and is using aggressive collections tactics to recover costs. Their subsequent investigation uncovers millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts and lucrative for-profit businesses under the control of the non-profit hospital – not only at Phoebe, but also at non-profit hospitals around the country. And shockingly – this is all entirely legal.

When these discoveries become public, Bagnato and Rehberg become the targets of threats and intimidation, and are eventually prosecuted by local authorities for blowing the whistle on the hospital’s practices.  With their reputations and livelihoods on the line, Bagnato and Rehberg must confront what they’re willing to sacrifice to bring about justice.

(3)  (Dec. 2005)

STARTLING REVELATIONS ABOUT THE FACTOIDS PROSECUTION: DA TO BE EMBARRASSED BY REHBERG & BAGNATO CASE

My Photo

This site tells more:

(This column will appear in the December 29, 2005 The Albany Journal)

I am now the proud possessor of all of the famous Phoebe Factoids. Some are funny. All are thought provoking. None are criminal.

On December 15th and 16th The Albany Herald devoted two straight days of front page, top of the fold coverage to the indictment and booking of Albany accountant Charles Adam Rehberg and physician Vito John Bagnato for six misdemeanor counts of harassing phone calls, one count of aggravated assault on physician John Hotz, and one count of burglary of Dr. Hotz’s home at 1614 Lynwood Lane. What the Herald and local television didn’t report at the time were the details that make this story unique in the annals of criminal prosecutions. After doing a little digging and asking a few questions, I discovered some fascinating facts about the “Phoebe Factoids” prosecution:

* The harassing phone call statute, which the local media didn’t bother to report, only includes “persons” as victims, not corporations or “offices.” The pertinent portion of the statute, (OCGA) §16-11-39.1, defines “harassing phone calls” as occurring

“if such person telephones another person repeatedly, whether or not conversation ensues, for the purpose of annoying, harassing, or molesting another person or the family of such other person;“

Yet four counts of the indictment allege that the “victim” was something other than a person: “Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital” (Count 1);; “Sullivan Group” (Count 4); “Bruce Melton Oxford Construction Company” (Count 5); and “Albany Land Company, Inc.” (Count 6). These counts are almost certain to be dismissed before trial.

 

POINTS:  This writer did some fact-checking.  It seems he knows some law, too, wh ich we all should!

Point:  The hospital is a prime employer in the area, and when they began covering the audit, (per the film, as I recall), naturally they lost significant advertising revenue.  In other words, it COST the newspaper to tell the truth re: a justice situation.

Here’s more, and I want readers who listened to the last State of the Union address (or read it), and those who are fighting to preserve music, art, library or sports in local schools, or social services for the indigent, which are all being cut (as transit FARES go up and SERVICES go down in urban and suburban areas — in other words, as with the Phoebe situation, WHO gets socked in the gut hardest?  Those who can least afford it…., obviously.  What, is someone going to kick a politician in the butt, really?  ??  Or a judge?    (Only if someone gets too close to home, after which the others associated will quickly distance themselves from the supposed aberration in the system, that one unethical bad apple in the basket of an otherwise noble enterprise….)

* All citizens have a First Amendment right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Here’s an excerpt from a FACTOID sent to Congressman Bishop’s office:

“In an editorial January 7 [2004] Albany Herald Editor Kay Read acknowledged a serious problem facing our State- the Medicaid program is $173 Million short of funds… In our opinion, the solution is obvious. Phoebe Putney … has accumulated massive cash reserves due to years of excessive profits… Phoebe alone reported almost $217 million in the bank when it filed its 2002 Federal information return… The solution to Georgia’s Medicaid budget problem is simple- reduce Medicaid payments to public hospitals with excess reserves and profits, and redirect these funds to other providers… Phoebe alone has enough excess funds to solve the entire State of Georgia Medicaid crisis!”

* One of the more obvious discrepancies between the harassing phone call statute and the allegations in the indictment is that the defendants aren’t alleged to have made telephone calls. People don’t “answer” fax machines- unless they want an ear splitting electronic sound inflicted on their brains. Sending a document via a fax line is no more a telephone call than sending an e-mail via the Internet- which also piggybacks on phone lines.

There are more links in this study, but it is ONE case study.

NOW, while I’m on the topic of nonprofit funding PROFITS, a little bird told me to (again) check TAGGS.hhs.gov for Responsible Fatherhood Funding. 

So I will!  And in future posts, I may get around to some info re: the attorney in this case, Mr. Scruggs, who Wikipedia describes thus:

Richard F. “Dickie” Scruggs (born May 17, 1946) is a former A6A naval aviator, a prominent trial lawyer, one of the richest men in Mississippi, and the brother-in-law of former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Scruggs first came to the public eye after successfully suing the asbestos industry on behalf of ill shipyard workers. He later represented the state of Mississippi in the tobacco litigation of the 1990s.[1][2]

Scruggs was indicted for attempted bribery in 2007 and in 2009. He pleaded guilty in March 2008, and again in February 2009. Scruggs was sentenced to 5 years in prison on June 27, 2008 by U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers; and on February 10, 2009, Judge Glen H. Davidson sentenced him to 7 years for the second scheme, to run concurrently

Personal life

Scruggs was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi, on May 17 1946, but grew up in Pascagoula, Mississippi.[1] In 1971 he married Diane Thompson, a sister of Tricia Thompson Lott, wife of Trent Lott. The sisters are close, and their families often spent holidays together.[5]

Scruggs lived in a five-million-dollar mansion in Oxford, Mississippi.[6] In 2003, he bought the upper floor of a building on Courthouse Square in Oxford in which he housed the Scruggs Law Firm.[6]

Scruggs brought a certain élan to Oxford, and politicians regularly came through on fund-raising quests, Joe Biden, Tom Daschle, Susan Collins, and Harry Reid, among them.[7]

Scruggs and his wife, Diane, were ardent supporters of the University of Mississippi, making large donations to several organizations on campus. Scruggs Hall, which currently houses the Music department, was named in their honor. The Scruggs’ name was removed from the building following Scruggs guilty plea to bribery in March 2007. The building is now called the “The Music Building.”

(Smile…..)  His son isn’t much better, but helped blowing the whistle on him.  ANYHOW, he DID get the facts out…. 

 

 

Written by Let's Get Honest

January 30, 2010 at 3:58 pm

7 Responses

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  1. It keeps on going:

    http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/ag-candidate-in-federal-285004.html

    even this week, the apparently corrupt prosecutor was in federal court to try to defend himself, according to this article.

    jason

    January 30, 2010 at 4:31 pm

  2. [...] “The Profit in Non-profits and two men in Georgia — Lessons from Phoebe Factoids“ [...]

  3. [...] Also in Georgia — “THe profit in nonprofits, Phoebe factoids and two men in Albany, GA“) [...]

    Let'sGetHonestBlog

    July 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm

  4. [...] had huge offshore profits  –and overcharged uninsured customers.  I blogged this (“The Profit in Nonprofits, and 2 Men in Georgia“) , as my understanding of the word “nonprofit” and “set-up” [...]

  5. […] n Albany, Georgia). I blogged it in January 30, 2010, as a point of reference about nonprofitsThe Profit in Nonprofits and 2 men in Albany, GA, however that post has been blocked out (I DNK why) from public view. […]


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