- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A D.C. Council member is calling on city officials to spend $1.9 million on health care needs for residents east of the Anacostia River.

A contractor returned the money to the city last year after failing to open a 24-hour health clinic.

D.C. Council member Vincent C. Gray, Ward 7 Democrat, said the money should stay in his ward because that was where the health clinic was supposed to operate.

“There’s no question that we have serious health care needs,” Mr. Gray said.

“I know there is $1.9 million in health needs east of the Anacostia River. If you look at all of the statistics, the health indicators show Ward 7 and Ward 8 are at the top of the list.”

The money was returned to the District last year after it was disclosed that a health clinic run by Chartered Health Plan of D.C. at 3924 Minnesota Ave. SE failed to operate 24 hours each day, as required in a May 2002 contract.

City health officials said at a D.C. Council hearing last month they haven’t made any decisions regarding the clinic funding.

“That’s going to be one of the first things I look into,” said Dr. Walter Faggett, senior deputy for the Office of Primary Care in the D.C. Department of Health.

Chartered Health also handles many of the business functions for the D.C. Healthcare Alliance, the city-funded private health care plan for low-income residents who are not covered by Medicaid.

During a D.C. Council oversight meeting last month, David A. Catania, chairman of the council’s Committee on Health, questioned an increase in administrative fees paid to Chartered Health.

The company received $4.6 million in administrative fees last year, but it is being paid $6.5 million this year. The difference — $1.9 million — mirrors the amount that the company agreed to return to city government last year.

“I struggle with why we … reward for past failures,” Mr. Catania told health officials. “It just seems not to be very prudent.”

However, city health officials explained that Chartered Health earns a base amount of $6.5 million in administrative fees each year, but that the city reduced that amount to $4.6 million last year because of the company’s failure to operate the 24-hour clinic.

Last year, city health officials said they gave permission to Chartered Health not to operate around the clock, but never demanded that the money be returned until city officials criticized the arrangement, which was first reported in The Washington Times.

Now that the clinic money has been paid back, city health officials say, they are returning Chartered Health’s administrative fees to its original base amount of $6.5 million per year.

Mr. Gray said he isn’t sure whether a 24-hour clinic is needed at the Chartered Health facility, but that the money should stay in Ward 7.

“Virtually all of Ward 7 is underserved,” he said. “Somebody committed $1.9 million in city resources to Ward 7. I’m just saying, why can’t we have it back?”

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