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Quick Picks: Outsourcing Health Care in Texas

Jan. 6: This post has been updated.

Quick Picks focuses on a select few of the day’s stories from “Breaking on the Web.”

  • On Sunday, the Dallas Morning News unrolled the first of a four-part series examining how special-interest influence in Texas has impaired its services for the poor, sick and elderly. The first story focuses on Evercare, a health care company widely dubbed “Nevercare” that continues to win big state contracts despite more than a million dollars in fines and a clamor of complaints about delayed or denied health care. The News points out that Evercare’s owner, UnitedHealth Group, spends millions of dollars every year on a powerful lobbying team and on state and federal campaign contributions. Evercare Responds—An Evercare spokesperson told ProPublica the News’ implication that the company had denied care is incorrect. Patients’ eligibility and benefits are set by the state, he said; the company simply administers the program. He reiterated that the program is new and still working out some kinks.
  • Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the largest private landowner in the U.S., Plum Creek Timber, was about to get the opportunity to develop millions of acres of Western forests after negotiating a deal with the Forest Service behind closed doors.  Apparently, Plum Creek couldn’t take the heat: Yesterday, it apologized and withdrew its request to pave roads on U.S. lands. The company says it will hold public meetings to further gauge public opinion. Meanwhile, Forest Service chief Mark Rey says Plum Creek still “has the right to use the roads as it sees fit”: The deal was only meant to make that right explicit and guarantee certain concessions from the company.
  • In 2002, American officials arrested Muhammad Saad Iqbal in Indonesia, and, after two days of interrogation, determined that he was nothing more than a “wannabe.” Nevertheless, Iqbal remained in U.S. custody for another six years, and now he’s telling the New York Times all about it. In addition to a stint at Bagram and five years at Gitmo, Iqbal tells the Times he was rendered to Egypt and tortured. After two suicide attempts and three hunger strikes (but no charges), he was finally released in August. Iqbal plans to sue the U.S., explaining: “It’s easy for the United States to say no charges were found… But who is responsible for the seven years of my life?”

Was there a story we missed? Please keep sending us stories from your local paper, favorite blog or magazine, etc. via e-mail or Delicious.

Update: An Evercare spokesperson told ProPublica the News’ implication that the company had denied care is incorrect. Patients’ eligibility and benefits are set by the state, he said; the company simply administers the program. He reiterated that the program is new and still working out some kinks.

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