Universal Health Care

Stephanie Colombini / WUSF Public Media

Conservative author and health policy expert Avik Roy has a plan for universal health care.

Once Its Greatest Foes, Doctors Are Embracing Single-Payer

Aug 7, 2018
doctor's scrubs with stethoscope

When the American Medical Association — one of the nation’s most powerful health care groups — met in Chicago this June, its medical student caucus seized an opportunity for change.

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Cheered on by a handful of activists, liberal House Democrats announced outside the Capitol that they were forming a caucus to push for "Medicare for All" — shorthand for government-financed health care.

The trustee representing bankrupt Universal Health Care Group, Inc., has filed 11 lawsuits in an attempt to recover $5.9 million from vendors, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal. The St. Petersburg based holding company that provided health insurance and managed care through its subsidiaries has been struggling to untangle its finances since investigators raided the company's headquarters in 2013.

A doctor-turned-developer has walked away from a $10.5-million deal to buy Universal Health Care’s old St. Petersburg headquarters, the Tampa Bay Business Journal reports. Dr. Kevin Hirsch, a trauma surgeon, said city officials were dragging their feet on the deal to buy the downtown building that once housed the now bankrupt Medicare insurer. 

An auto-insurance company owned by the founder of the “1-800-Ask-Gary” referral service has been barred from writing new policies, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports. Dr. Gary Kompothecras’ Sarasota-based AGIC Inc. is fighting with the state Office of Insurance Regulation over allegations that it doesn't have enough funds to pay future claims.

In other business news:

It's official, if anyone was in doubt: A federal grand jury is investigating three former top executives of Universal Health Care, a now-defunct Medicare-plan company in St. Petersburg.

(See other business news below)

Three of Universal Health Care's top executives -- including president and CEO Dr. A.K. Desai -- required that vendors provide the men with lucrative personal deals on the side before signing contracts, an attorney for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court trustee told the  judge at a hearing covered by the Tampa Bay Times.

Tampa Bay Times

The trustee that’s handling the Universal Health Care bankruptcy case says Dr. Akshay Desai illegally diverted $100,000 in company money to Wake Forest University as the insurer was crumbling, the Tampa Bay Times reports. 

A Fort Lauderdale CPA has been named bankruptcy trustee for St. Petersburg-based Universal Health Care Group Inc., the parent corporation of two health plans that were placed in liquidation by the state of Florida last month.

The Chapter 11 Trustee is Soneet R. Kapila, founding partner of Kapila & Company, CPAs, according to a spokeswoman for the company, Jeanne Becker.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge K. Rodney May of the Middle District of Tampa signed the order approving Kapila's appointment on Monday.

Dr. Akshay "A.K." Desai borrowed tens of millions of dollars from friends and other investors and quickly built a group of interlocking companies that quickly took in more than $1 billion last year from taxpayers.

He spent lavishly on a waterfront home, $100,000 cars, frequent parties, art, and Republican candidates -- especially candidates. In return, he got appointed to public posts and invited to hang out with them at their homes and on campaign planes.

Tampa Bay Times

Health-fraud investigators spent most of Thursday night copying data from the computers at Universal Health Care after federal agents raided the company early Thursday and ordered hundreds of workers out of their offices in the downtown St. Petersburg building.

Meanwhile, Dr. Akshay "A.K." Desai, who founded and ran the Medicare and Medicaid  HMO company, was nowhere in evidence. The gates were closed at his ultra-modern mansion on Tampa Bay.

Nearly half of Universal Health Care customers -- those enrolled in a Medicare plan --  need to act immediately if they want to protect themselves from the possibility of unexpected expenses next month.

If they switch plans by Sunday, March 31, they will be fully covered under their new plan as of Monday, April 1. If they don't, the federal government will automatically enroll them in traditional Medicare. If they had prescription-drug coverage under Universal, they will be automatically enrolled in a drug plan.

Tampa Bay Times

Federal agents bearing subpoenas raided Universal Health Care on Thursday morning around 8 a.m. and made most employees leave, according to the Tampa Bay Times.


If you know someone on Universal, please read this. 

Patients who have insurance through Universal Health Care won’t have it after April 1, the Tampa Bay Times reports. As part of the state’s takeover of the troubled St. Petersburg-based insurer, thousands of Medicare and Medicaid members will have to switch to a different plan.   

A bankrupt Medicare plan based in St. Petersburg will be turned over to the State of Florida's Division of Financial Services  by April 1 under an order issued Thursday by a circuit court judge in Tallahassee. As the Tampa Bay Times reports, this puts hundreds of Universal Health Care employees at risk of losing their jobs. 

State regulators are in an emergency court hearing Wednesday morning in Tallahassee, asking a judge to liquidate Universal Health Care and turn it over to them by April 1. 

They say the financial turmoil at the St. Petersburg-based plan has led many health-care providers to stop treating Universal's patients because the company owes them money, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Care Point Insurance Co., based in New Jersey,  won a bankruptcy auction for Universal Health Care Group in St. Petersburg, pending approval by state authorities. Care Point's bid was $33.25 million, all cash, according to Harley Riedel, Universal's bankruptcy attorney.

A company controlled by Dr. Kiran Patel actually offered more money -- $36.5 million -- but it would have been paid over time.

Universal Health Care executives overstated assets and submitted "misleading financial statements" to the state and a major creditor, according to state documents released Thursday by the Office of Insurance Regulation.

Meanwhile, Universal's founder, president and CEO, Dr. Akshay "A.K." Desai,  has resigned his post as finance chairman for the Republican Party of Florida.

Universal Health Care still has a willing buyer with a fat wallet, but its future now lies in the hands of the Department of Financial Services and possibly the court system.

The St. Petersburg-based company, founded and run by Dr. A.K. Desai, has Medicare plans in 19 states, including Florida. Universal also has a Medicaid contract with the state of Florida. Desai said the company currently has about 145,000 members.

Dr. Kiran Patel of Tampa, who already has two small but fast-growing Medicare HMOs, said he has offered to take over Universal Health Care, a financially-troubled company based in St. Petersburg.

While there are still many unknowns, he said, he understands Universal’s liabilities are somewhere between $50 million and $100 million. He said that if Universal doesn’t get a bailout, the state will place it in receivership.

"It's a very sick company," he said.

MBF Healthcare Partners, an investment group chaired by Miami multimillionaire Miguel "Mike" Fernandez, will not be buying Universal Health Care, after all. 

MBF's public relations agent released a terse statement to that effect Wednesday afternoon, a few hours after Health News Florida asked for confirmation that the talks had been called off. The statement said the two companies "mutually agreed not to proceed."

In the just-ended Medicare enrollment season, Universal Health Care took a hit when the federal government sent enrollees a letter suggesting they switch plans because of Universal's low quality scores, less than 3 stars out of 5. Now it has halted sales.