Wednesday, October 24, 2007

2.3-million members are nearly equally divided between Medicare and Medicaid

An FBI agent arrived about 9:25 a.m. and told employees they could leave for the day. [Chris Zuppa | Times]

TAMPA -- Federal law enforcement agents executed a search warrant this morning at the offices of WellCare Health Plans Inc. on Henderson Road, and people were seen removing materials from the building of the managed care company.

Acting U.S. Attorney James Klindt said FBI agents and law enforcement agents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Florida Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit were participating in the execution of the warrant at 8735 Henderson Road in Tampa. The ongoing investigation "does not directly concern, nor should it have any impact upon, the delivery of any health care service to any person," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

The office gave no further details on the investigation. The FBI did not immediately return calls for comment.

Many employees were standing outside the offices this morning, talking on cell phones or heading to their cars to leave.

Steven Meitzen, 51, arrived at WellCare about 9:40 a.m. for a job interview. A sheriff's deputy stopped him when he exited a parking garage elevator and director him to stand with a crowd of about 20 employees waiting outside, he said.

"I was told by a member of the human resources that they thought it was a bomb scare, but they were locked down and not allowed to leave the building," Meitzen said. "Later on, I talked to someone who said (the FBI) had a subpoena and were looking for records."

Meitzen stood by for nearly half an hour, watching "a lot" of unmarked vehicles with flashing ligths surround the property.

"They had a lot of the entrances covered," Metizen said.

WellCare's Web site describes it as a leading provider of managed care services dedicated to government-sponsored health care programs focusing on Medicaid and Medicare plans, including health plans for families, children, the blind and disabled, and prescription drug plans.

Its 2.3-million members are nearly equally divided between Medicare and Medicaid programs, and it posted $3.8-billion in revenue last year, the vast majority of that from state and federal government reimbursements. Profits were $139.2-million, nearly three times its net income after going public in 2004.

In June, Medicare's parent agency announced that seven of the industry's biggest players have agreed to suspend marketing until protective measures take effect to guard against rogue agents enrolling customers in fee-for-service plans they didn't want or need. Among the seven: Tampa's fastest-growing publicly traded company, WellCare Health Plans Inc.

--Bill Coats, Times staff writer

-- Trading was halted in WellCare stock at 10:59 a.m. after it had fallen $5.47 a share to $115.50.

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