One of the Best Workplaces in Tampa Bay for the past two years has just fallen from grace and taken its approximately 800 employees with it. Since the April 21st ruling of a Leon County judge, the decision to close and liquidate Universal Health Care and Universal Health Care Insurance Company based in downtown St. Petersburg has been made final.
The Medicaid members will be moved by the State of Florida and absorbed into other insurance companies able to handle the extra workload. Universal’s Medicare members will be given the options to choose another Medicare Advantage company’s policy, revert back to Original Medicare, or be placed by the government in another similar available Medicare Advantage plan.
Dr. Akshay Desai, a local geriatric physician of twenty years, founded Universal Health Care in 2002. The company moved its operations to its current location in November of 2008 with approximately 400 employees, and continued to expand into nineteen states with nearly 100,000 Medicare members and a little over 50,000 Medicaid members. It opened a call center in Jackson, Mississippi, and continued to staff its corporate office in St. Petersburg, until reaching approximately 1300 employees to handle its day-to-day business transactions.
Financial problems began surfacing in December 2012, when over 100 employees were let go just before the Christmas holiday, and thirty-five more on the first Friday in January 2013. Rumors of insolvency were flying, with accusations of fraud and embezzlement by the elite team, which consisted of four upper executives and Dr. Desai.
After the dust settled, and government agents thoroughly checked the company records to complete an audit, it was calculated that the company had $72 million unaccounted for, and very suspicious bookkeeping practices that followed the same unusual and misleading pattern of deceit, without the proper management of a consistent company CFO.
Yesterday, at 1:30 p.m., a Universal staff meeting was called by the new owners from Citrus Universal Healthcare, a new company started by members of CarePoint Insurance in New Jersey. They bought the business during an auction at the end of February, one week after Universal filed for Chapter 11. This $33.25 million cash sale was approved in a bankruptcy court last week to the delight of investors who had sunk $36.5 million into the company and had been left hanging since the beginning of 2013. Unfortunately, for Universal’s lenders, employees, and members, this sale could never be realized because of yesterday morning’s receivership proceedings.
Concerns were raised by Universal employees about their member’s chances of finding the medical insurance coverage they will need, especially those who are currently receiving medical attention in a hospital or nursing home, and the frail elderly who are trying desperately to stay living in their homes with some sort of quality of life. The government representative was unmoved, treating the questions with a soulless business-as-usual stance, and total disregard for the individual members that Universal’s caring employees deal with on a daily basis.
Employees were informed that Universal Health Care and Universal Health Care Insurance Company would be shut down as of April 1, at which time, most of them would be unemployed. About one hundred people will be kept on to man the phones so they can direct members and providers to government mandated processes and solutions. A small percentage of these employees may be needed to take care of about 10% of the members still under Citrus Universal Healthcare’s control, which are managed by Universal HMO of Texas and Universal Health Care of Nevada.
The promises made by Universal’s Human Resources Department of severance pay and one week’s vacation time owed, which would serve as compensation for the loyalty of those staff members who stayed to perform their duties until no longer needed, were squelched at the staff meeting. Not only were their hardworking, dedicated employees told that there were no funds to fulfill this promise, but as of that moment there isn’t enough money in the till to pay their wages until April 1. As the emotional excitement and fear from this new information began striking a cord in the hearts of staff members, questions began bombarding the podium, until shortly afterwards with a look of alarm, those who directed the meeting quickly ended it and left.
Many employees now suspect that this was the intention of the auction winners in the first place, since the amount of money stolen cannot be so quickly replaced, and CarePoint Insurance has very little experience with Medicare Advantage companies and probably didn’t want to take on more than they could handle. Adding those facts to the extreme lack of communication with the staff members of their intentions until yesterday, a dark cloud of disbelief has formed and is hovering like a dense vapor of doom, making it difficult to remain in such an unhealthy environment.
This is just another example of American capitalism at its best. The winners use and abuse the system to lie, cheat, steal, and get away with it, while the losers carry out years of work trying to construct something useful, helpful, and of human value. This has been a reality for decades and was well described by Ralph Waldo Emerson when referring to the recession, depression, and oppression of the working class by our economical system that as he stated, sacrifices whole towns “like ant hills.” In his assertion for a well-needed change, and to help guide the smitten, he wrote, "The best political economy is the care and culture of men; for, in these crises, all are ruined except such as are proper individuals, capable of thought, and of new choice and the application of their talent to new labor."
To maintain one’s emotional, mental, and physical health in a crises such as this, it is best to step back and take a long, deep breath. Then, clear the mind and start a long wish list of all one’s desires for the present and into the future. It doesn’t matter if it is realistic at the moment. If the list contains your heartfelt hopes for happiness, it is worth writing down.
Afterwards, number your list in order of priorities and current possibilities. This will help you identify a sequence in your desires and organize a functional plan that can last a long time. As you set out seeking employment, volunteer work, and the changes you wish to implement, focus on your list daily, reading it like an affirmation, meditating on it to create the good intentions, and in prayer to back it with your personal power.
Remember, a regular job is just what you do. It is not who you are. It may help give you a skill set, but it does not define you. By taking steps to manifest pure joy in your life, you will be exposing your true identity and promoting good mental and emotional health. So, heal yourself by following your heart.