Universal Health Care prepares to shut down - WFLA News Channel 8

Universal Health Care prepares to shut down

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ST PETERSBURG, FL (WFLA) -

Only a fraction of the hundreds of employees of Universal Health Care were allowed inside the bankrupt company's headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg on Friday as it prepares to liquidate.  

Employees said they were instructed to dial into an electronic message Friday morning that told them the office was closed and only employees from certain departments should report to the office.

"They checked my badge and made sure I worked in the proper department and they escorted me inside," said Universal employee Krystal Washington.

"It's just hard to motivate yourself to work when there's no one inside," said Krystal Washington, one of those who did report to work.

The employees at the office Friday were largely ones who staffed the phones to take calls from concerned clients wanting to know what would happen with their coverage.

Universal's clients are individuals enrolled in either Medicare or Medicaid. If they don't choose a new plan on their own before Monday, April 1, they will be assigned to one.

Federal agents were back at the office again on Friday but finished up their work there by the end of the day. Agents with Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General and the FBI executed a search warrant at the company on Thursday. Officials with the agencies haven't said what they were looking for, but the agents on the investigation are part of a team that investigates Medicare fraud.

Universal Health Care has been under scrutiny for months.

In a court motion filed this week, a U.S. bankruptcy trustee referred to a "pattern of dishonesty and gross mismanagement." The motion also said that while the company was insolvent, it paid $2.5 million in bonuses and compensation (on top of a salary) to its CEO Dr. Akshay Desai, and $18.3 million to Desai's company American Managed Care.

Questions about the company's finances and the investigation also frustrate employees.

"Definitely angry because it kind of feels like … we put our trust in this company and it feels like we were, we were let down, a lot of us were," said Joseph Gonzalez, who has worked at Universal Health Care since September.

As employees look for new jobs, a Clearwater attorney has filed a lawsuit seeking class action status for employees. The lawsuit claims the company did not give employees or the state the legally required 60-day notice to do mass layoffs.

"This has had a major impact on the employees lives," said attorney Ryan Barack. "There are people who are pregnant, who are trying to figure out what's happening with their health insurance, there are people trying to figure out how they're going to feed their families."

 

 

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