- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2001

The D.C. financial control board, hounded by hundreds of shouting protesters at two meeting locations yesterday, overruled the D.C. Councils rejection of a plan privatizing the citys indigent health care.
"We worked together to draft a common solution to the citys health problems," control board Chairman Alice Rivlin said. "Unfortunately, any hope for a cooperative solution has now vanished. We support the mayors plan and are satisfied it is a solid one."
Moving forward on this plan hasnt been easy, she admitted, and yesterday was no exception.
Protesters shouted down the control board at a first meeting, held in a press room in Judiciary Square. The five-member board, created by Congress in 1995 to oversee D.C. government, had planned to officially approve a contract with Greater Southeast Hospital that would drastically cut services at D.C. General Hospital.
The board members left without starting the meeting.
The board reconvened nearby in a basement auditorium at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. After the board closed the meeting to the public, angry protesters tried to forcefully enter the building.
As security personnel held chanting protesters back, police evacuated members of the control board, members of the mayors administration and representatives of Greater Southeast Hospital from a locked room just after they unanimously approved the plan.
The meeting met the criteria of "open" under control board rules because reporters were present, city officials said.
The plan creates a private consortium led by the Greater Southeast Community Hospital, which is owned by Doctors Community Health Care Corp.
Administration officials say the $500 million contract will save the city up to $30 million annually while expanding health care services for 80,000 uninsured city residents.
Council members oppose the plan, saying it will cost the city more and will not improve health services.
The contract was to take effect at midnight, board members said.
On Friday, council members rejected the plan while voting to override Mayor Anthony A. Williams veto of $21 million in the supplemental budget to keep D.C. General Hospital open.
Yesterday, they tried again to block the plan, this time with a lawsuit.
At-large Republican David Catania and Ward 7 councilman Kevin Chavous asked the U.S. District Court to halt the plan because they say the control board overstepped its statutory authority by making policy, not approving or rejecting it. This is unconstitutional, the councilmen maintain.
"Were confident the courts will agree with us," Mr. Chavous said. "They began this process collaborating with the council, but after Greater Southeast got involved, the control board went on their own. There is clearly no agreement with the council on this."
Mrs. Rivlin disagreed.
"We justified this under the federal law that gave us the authority," she said. "We felt we must act since there is no agreement ."
The court is the councils last hope because Congress has signaled its unwillingness to get involved.
"Congress has no reason to meddle," said Rep. Joe Knollenberg, a Michigan Republican. "There is a process in place and it is working. The council participated in this process and by doing so has made this a better agreement."
Mr. Knollenberg said he would oppose the supplemental budget that included the $21 million line item.
Despite the contracts finalization, residents and some city officials continue to question the financial and medical fitness of the plan. Although the control board hired accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to investigate the financial status of the contractor and subcontractors, the report remains closely guarded by the board.
Mrs. Rivlin said yesterday that the report shows the firms are sound.
But council members have been asking to see the report for weeks.
"All they gave us was an executive summary with no numbers or information to support their position," Mr. Catania said. "If they think this appeases us, they are sadly mistaken. This is really a joke."
"I dont know how they can think we can support a plan without all the relevant information," he said.

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