There’s sometimes a huge disconnect between screaming headlines and the official explanation. Take “Ulster Accused of Shoddy Medicaid Monitoring, a story in the March 25 Times Herald-Record.
A few weeks ago James Nani of the Record wrote a straightforward lead: “A federal inspector says New York State should pay back $6.3 million in Medicaid payments because of Ulster County’s shoddy monitoring of personal care services.”
Quoting state sources, Nani reported that from 2008 to 2011 the state filed claims with the federal government for $12.6 million in “high dollar claims” (more than $10,000 per claim) for the care of incapacitated elderly Medicaid patients. The report said inspectors looked at 30 Ulster claims at random. The county scored zero for 30.
The county explained that local doctors will not accept (minimal) Medicaid payments for such treatment. The law requires a doctor signoff on all cases.
Social Services Commissioner Mike Iapoce at the time said this was more a federal-state issue than Ulster County’s. Ulster, he told media, was only following state guidelines.
He repeated much the same again before a regular meeting of the legislature’s Public Health & Social Services Committee Monday, April 6.
Iapoce was joined by Deputy Executive Ken Crannell, who assured legislators the county was at minimal financial risk for non-compliance. In any case, he said, the state was in the final stages of assuming administrative costs for such programs.
Legislators asked a few pointed questions. Exactly what kind of treatment were these elderly patients getting? The solons seemed satisfied with the circuitous answers they were given.
Committee Chairman Craig Lopez of Pine Bush wrapped things up. Would Iapoce’s department “share future correspondence with this committee”? “Absolutely,” answered Iapoce before hurredly departing for his son’s birthday party.
This incident demonstrates that the executive branch hasn’t necessarily been forthcoming with pertinent information. When questions about the care of elderly patients spill over into blaring headlines, the bureaucrats express concern and offer grudgingly to modify what is apparently a one-way relationship. Would it be too much to ask the legislature to more diligently exercise its oversight responsibilities? It would be a better way to conduct the public’s business.
Terms of endearment
Like the cicadas that show up every 17 years, once a decade or so some two-year politicians lobby for twice the term for half the effort. Despite the almost automatic re-election of incumbents, most pols hate to run for office every other year.
We hear a lot about term limits these days, but Ken Ronk of Wallkill and Manna Jo Greene of Rosendale want to extend Ulster legislators’ terms from two to four years.
Ronk, the Republican minority leader, is also in favor of term limits: his definition of limit is 16 years!
I gather that Ronk’s sweet 16 is but a bargaining chip. Twelve would be the more likely number, since 10 years gets county legislators a public pension.
Democrat Greene, who sometimes tends to overthink things, complicates the nascent discussion with the idea of split elections, half the legislature running every two years under a four-year setup. Oy.
The next thing you know, they’ll be asking for pay raises.
Personally, I’d like these people running every year. Wonderful things happened in election years. Legislators return phone calls, show up at public events, kiss babies, listen to constituents.
As for the argument that it takes a legislator a year just to learn the ropes, I say bah! Imagine a candidate coming to your door and saying, “Vote for me, but I won’t be worth a damn for a year?” Double-bah. If a legislator isn’t hip after three or four monthly sessions and a dozen committee meetings, it’s a result of sheer stupidity.
Fortunately, this initiative won’t be going anywhere this election year.
The biannual mating dance has begun between Republican Ulster Town Supervisor Jim Quigley and the town GOP committee over whether the three-term incumbent will seek another term.
Two years ago, Quigley, now approaching 60, said he wasn’t running for health reasons. The Democratic cross-endorsement and a six-week cruise to Australia got him healthy again.
Both sides are being coy. Quigley, after meeting with GOP leaders a few weeks ago, ain’t sayin’ nothin’, which might mean he’s willing to be courted. Party Chairman “Mysterious” Jim Maloney doesn’t usually talk to anyone about party business, and when he does, doesn’t reveal much.
Quigley’s worst nightmare might be former supervisor Nick Woerner, the man he soundly defeated in 2009, moving back into town and wreaking havoc on the surplus he (Quigley) has rebuilt over four years in office. Woerner, a Democrat, moved to Kingston, where he has twice run unsuccessfully for alderman. Despite that record, some people tout him as mayoral timber.
Town Democrats look upon Quigley’s possible departure with mixed emotions. On one hand, many respect the job he’s done as town supervisor in restoring the treasury after Woerner. He’s run the town in a firm, businesslike manner. On the other, they believe they have at least one hot prospect who could beat just about anybody the GOP can throw up to succeed Quigley.
Plotters on all sides have a few more months before the September town nominating caucuses.
Return of the boy wonder
“Honestly, do you think I have a chance?” asked recently announced Republican mayoral candidate Scott DiMicco at Dietz Stadium Diner on Easter Sunday afternoon. I hate to burst anybody’s bubble the week after they announce or throw cold water on that brief halcyon period between coming forth and hard reality, especially in a season of hope and renewal.
“Honestly?” I said. “You know the demographics. What is it, two to one, Democrat in this town?”
Actually, for DiMicco or any other Republican, it’s worse. The Board of Elections reports 4,945 enrolled Democrats in Kingston, against 2,042 Republicans. But, independents (non-enrolled voters, not those pesky Independence Party loyalists) hold the key to City Hall with 8,061 registrants.
DiMicco, 40, a two-term alderman who left office in 2004, was once the boy wonder of Kingston politics. He ran a respectable campaign for school board at 18 and thereafter got immersed in Republican affairs. “He was born a wise old soul,” DiMicco’s mother once said of her only child. Five years later he was an alderman, one of the youngest in city history. Outspoken and contentious, DiMicco may be best remembered for donating his aldermanic salary to the Kingston Library. Since leaving office he enrolled in embalming school and sold used cars. He currently works at a furniture store in the Town of Kingston.
Wise old soul DiMicco hopes to restore the good old days in Kingston, a popular if hackneyed theme among mayoral candidates. He notes that the last Republican mayor (John Amarello) was elected in 1991, when he (DiMicco) was in high school. Amarello was turned out of office after one two-year term by Democrat T.R. Gallo.
While long on nostalgia, DiMicco says he’ll tear down the 1976 Stockade Pike Plan, which cost city taxpayers about $8 million to recently repair, “if it can’t be fixed.” There’s currently a study underway to try to determine why its canopies started leaking within a year after renovation.