Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Privatization of all things public, including social services & mental health, increasingly seen as hazardous

Seems we haven't gotten to the end of this road aka 'privatization will get you worse services and you'll lose your experienced leadership and what will you get in substitution?'

NC's mental health system was privatized with big fanfare at the beginning of the Easley administration in 2000 and look where we are now.

NC privatized its mental health system (HEY: was that why it was picked? by Dr. Richard Visingardi, Director for MH/DD/SAS, coming from MI from another failed mental health reform project---- as easy prey?) when the state was flush w/ money).


+ side re: privatization: bigger pool of providers, some with more expertise than could have been had at the local community mental health center (if you can find them)

- side re: privatization:

lost money and degraded services (where did all our Community Service Support $$ go to?)

weak oversight (inability of NC DHHS to demand that LME's provide certain basic services as associated w/ how law was written such that LME's could determine how they wanted to allocate their monies leaving entities like Smoky Mountain Center LME as nixing Basic Services and therefore losing experienced, professional providers)

lost expertise (thus the purported 'shortage' of professional providers being 'documented' by western NC news services

assets sold off for short-term gains but long-term loss

lost democratic accountability (elected county commissioners of western NC counties clearly lost their umph re: being able to impact mental health care vis a vis their citizens)

the corruption of the political process (Carmen Hooker Odom, for 7 long years Secretary of NC DHHS, appointed by Easley: need we say more)

Certainly, no money has been saved and wasn't that the main argument in favor of mental health privatization?


from Stateside Dispatch:


Privatization Update: Recent News from across the Country

As states face mounting deficits, corporate lobbyists have been promoting the idea that privatization of public services and assets is a free lunch -- services can be delivered more cheaply than by public employees and public assets like highways can be sold or leased for a hefty return to the taxpayer. As PSN has detailed in our December 2007 report Privatizing in the Dark: The Pitfalls of Privatization & Why Budget Disclosure is Needed, the promises of privatization too often yield to a reality of lost money and degraded services, weak oversight and lost expertise, assets sold off for short-term gains but long-term loss, lost democratic accountability, and the corruption of the political process......

Lost Benefits in Indiana: In Indiana, local and state human service leaders criticized the privatization of the delivery of welfare benefits in 59 (of Indiana's 92) counties and called for the return of traditional caseworkers to Indiana's welfare system. Advocates for elderly, disabled, and low-income individuals claim that difficulty navigating the new welfare system has led to the loss of benefits for many vulnerable citizens. In 2006, Governor Mitch Daniels' administration awarded a $1.16 billion privatization contract to a team led by IBM to take over the processing of applications for Medicaid, food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

After listening to months of complaints from constituents and health care providers, two committees of state lawmakers - the Medicaid Oversight Commission and the Health Finance Commission - called for a temporary halt in the privatization of social services until problems are resolved. Representative Suzanne Crouch and Senator Vaneta Becker (both Republicans) have drafted legislation to be considered by the General Assembly when it meets in January. The legislation will prevent Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration from extending the welfare privatization into the remaining 33 counties until a complete review of existing services in conducted.....
Costly Privatized Medicare Plans: According to two new studies mentioned in the New York Times, private Medicare plans cost more than traditional Medicare without adding comparable value to patients. According to Marsha Gold of Mathematica Policy Research, one-third of Medicare beneficiaries with Part D get coverage through Medicare Advantage, which adds to Medicare's complexity and costs but does not result in any noticeable improvement in quality. In another article, Carlos Zarabozo and Scott Harrison of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission state that the government pays private companies 13% more on average than what it would spend for the same beneficiaries in traditional Medicare. Zarabozo and Harrison acknowledge that higher payments finance extra benefits for some enrollees, but these payments create a greater burden on beneficiaries and taxpayers and do not lead to improved quality of services.

Bush Labor Department misled Congress in effort to privatize jobs
John Byrne
Published: Tuesday November 25, 2008

President George W. Bush's Labor Department misled Congress in an effort to prove outsourcing jobs to private companies was more efficient than assigning the jobs to government employees, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Monday.

The report (pdf here http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d0914.pdf ) found that the Department used fictional projected numbers to improve "savings reports" -- even when real numbers were already available. And when the government did find private firms to take a government job, that employee generally was either reassigned to another task with the same title or promoted.

The effort was called "competitive sourcing," aimed to increase government efficiency by having federal and private organizations compete for providing services. While part of a federal government approach since 1955, the Bush Administration has made the approach a key element of the President's Management Agenda under the Office of Management and Budget.

An investigation revealed, however, that the Labor Department -- under direction from Bush budget officials -- deliberately withheld information about true costs.


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