Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded tens of thousands of dollars in pay bonuses to top earners in the division that blames unavoidable cuts to cancer treatments on federal budget sequestration, according to alarming new documents obtained by Judicial Watch.
The Obama administration claims that the inhumane slash in cancer treatments for certain Medicare patients is out of its control because it’s a consequence of federal budget sequestration and it doesn’t have the power to stop it. In fact, in a letter obtained by a news agency earlier this month, HHS told Congress it doesn’t have the authority to exempt Medicare payment for the cancer treatments that have been hit as a result of sequestration reductions.
Concerned lawmakers had asked the agency to use budgetary authority to exempt the crucial medical treatments from sequestration reductions, considering the harsh effect it’s having on cancer patients. Since the March sequestration, a number of cancer clinics started turning away Medicare patients because the hard-hitting reimbursement reduction made the cost of administering chemotherapy drugs prohibitive.
It turns out that the HHS division responsible for the cancer treatment cuts pays its top officials outlandish bonuses, according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). JW has been investigating this for more than a year, long before the sequestration fiasco. In fact, back in April 2012 JW requested the pay records of the agency’s top earners.
Thirteen months later the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the HHS division at the epicenter of the cancer scandal, finally provided the records. In all there are 11 pages (view them here and here) and they show the following: The Deputy Chief Operating Officer, whose base pay is $179,700, was awarded a 25% bonus on October 1, 2011 worth $44,925; another $10,333 bonus on Dec. 31, 2011 and an additional $8,985 on Dec. 12, 2012, bringing her total compensation to $423,643 for the two fiscal years.
Meanwhile, the Director of the Office of Financial Management, whose base pay was also $179,700, was awarded a 15% bonus on October 1, 2011 worth $26,955. This brought her total compensation for the year to $206,655. Total bonuses reflected in the documents amounted to $101,531. Total pay reflected in the documents for the employees was $820,331.
This may seem unbelievable to the national cancer organizations that issued a joint statement blasting the Obama administration’s “crippling effects of sequestration cuts to cancer drugs and services.” The groups warned that, unless CMS exercises its authority to modify the cuts, patient access to cancer care will be jeopardized. It cites a survey that shows 72% of cancer clinics have been forced to deny new Medicare patients under the new sequestration reimbursement policy.
While the U.S. government is preoccupied monitoring and controlling what American children eat, it’s failing miserably to protect those in foster care from the devastating effects of potent, psychiatric medications that alter the mind.
Hundreds of thousands of foster children across the nation are being prescribed powerful psychiatric medications at doses that exceed the maximum levels approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), yet the feds are doing little to shield them. Within that number there is a subgroup that’s taking five or more psychiatric drugs simultaneously despite potential safety issues. In some cases the drugs aren’t even approved for this type of use the FDA, the federal agency charged with protecting public health by assuring the safety of medications and food.
The alarming details of the government’s failure to protect its most vulnerable citizens are featured in a federal report issued this week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress. It outlines the results of a two-year probe featuring five states—Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and Texas. Of the approximately 100,000 foster kids studied, investigators found that nearly one-third were prescribed at least one psychiatric drug. Investigators also determined that foster children are almost five times more likely to take psychotropic drugs than kids who aren’t in the system.
Foster children less than a year old were nearly twice as likely to be on psychiatric drugs compared to non-foster kids, investigators found. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is being blamed for the crisis since it oversees Medicaid, which provides prescription drug coverage for foster children and has the power to withhold federal money from states that fail to comply with stricter rules.
While little kids are getting doped up by the government on potent psych drugs, HHS simply offers “informational resources for states to consider” for children in their custody with no follow-up or oversight. “HHS-endorsed guidance could help close gaps in oversight of psychotropic prescriptions and increase protections for these vulnerable children,” congressional investigators say in their report.
Ironically, the Obama Administration has put the bloated federal government stamp on other issues that don’t require it. For instance, under Michelle Obama’s multi-billion dollar law (The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act) various federal agencies—including HHS—have joined forces to control what children eat as well as their exercise habits. Passed by Congress last year, the measure especially targets poor and “at-risk” kids.
As part of that effort, the government actually wasted $2 million this year on a device that tracks what minority public children eat for lunch. The goal of that brilliant project is to calculate how many lunchtime calories poor and minority kids consume at five Texas elementary schools. High-tech cameras were installed in the cafeteria of one San Antonio campus to photograph the foods students put on their trays. The digital imaging later determines how many calories were consumed.