MEDICAID FRAUD SCHEME
Man pleads guilty to trying to defraud Medicaid program
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A federal prosecutor says a North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his role in a scheme to defraud North Carolina’s Medicaid program of more than $14 million. Dena J. King, U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, says Richard Graves of Greensboro pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and money laundering. Court documents show that from January 2016 to July 2020, Graves and his co-conspirators planned to defraud the Medicaid program by paying illegal kickbacks to co-conspirators in exchange for urine samples from people who were recruited.
North Carolina AG sues company over scam phone calls
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is seeking hundreds of billions of dollars in a lawsuit filed against a Texas company which claims it helped scammers place robocalls inundating phones. According to The News & Observer of Raleigh, the lawsuit says Texas-based telecommunications business Articul8 helped facilitate scam calls across the country, including tens of millions of calls to North Carolinians, even though the company either knew or should’ve known that it was helping criminals try to defraud people. Articul8 didn’t respond to the newspaper’s email request for comment.
CANCER CENTER-$25 MILLION GIFT
$25M gift to start triple negative breast cancer center
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says a $25 million gift from an anonymous donor to a North Carolina cancer center will allow for more research into a highly aggressive breast cancer that disproportionately affects Black, Latina and young women and previously has had limited funding. According to a news release, the gift went to the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center to establish the UNC Lineberger Center for Triple Negative Breast Cancer. It’s the largest donation in the center’s history. The school says the gift was made in gratitude for the care a family member received while being treated for cancer at UNC
North Carolina unemployment rate falls to 3.7% in December
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina officials say the state’s unemployment rate fell again in December. The Commerce Department announced on Tuesday that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.7%, compared to 3.9% in November. The U.S. rate for December was 3.9%. North Carolina hasn’t logged a rising monthly unemployment rate since September 2020, as the state’s economy has rebounded from earlier COVID-19 lockdowns and business restrictions with gusto. Department data showed overall employment levels keep rising while the number of those unemployed dropped by almost 9,900 to 188,400, Another counting format showed the leisure and hospitality services sector with the largest employment growth.
NURSING HOME DEATHS
Nursing home: Residents deaths amid storm ‘mischaracterized’
THOMASVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The owner of a North Carolina nursing home says it’s concerned that the deaths of two residents amid a winter storm has been “mischaracterized” and the deaths weren’t related to staffing issues. News outlets report that Principle LTC, the owner of Pine Ridge Health & Rehabilitation Center, said in a statement Monday that staff notified residents’ families at the time of death and began making arrangements. But Principle says road conditions kept the funeral home from reaching them. Principle says its medical director indicated that the deaths were “medically unrelated” to staffing issues. Thomasville police say two residents were found dead and two more were in critical condition when residents requested a welfare check on Jan. 16.
SUPREME COURT-AFFIRMATIVE ACTION-EXPLAINER
EXPLAINER: Supreme Court takes up race in college admissions
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — The Supreme Court has agreed to review a challenge to the consideration of race in college admission decisions, often known as affirmative action. With three new conservative justices on the court since its last review, the practice may be facing its greatest threat yet. The court said Monday it would consider a pair of lawsuits alleging that Harvard University and the University of North Carolina discriminate against Asian American applicants. The court has generally upheld the practice of considering race, but with limits. Supporters say it helps bring a diverse mix of students to campus, while opponents say it’s a form of discrimination.
Challenges to NC Medicaid contracts now over with dismissal
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The end of appeals by two insurance providers fighting how North Carolina’s health department decided who would run its new Medicaid managed-care initiative means legal challenges over the awarding of the contracts are over. The Court of Appeals last week agreed to accept the voluntary dismissals by a pair of providers that lost out on contracts awarded in 2019. Four conventional insurers and one physician partnership received the awards to run the program, which began last July. Lawyers wrote that while the appeal remained solid, the group’s health system owners didn’t want to disturb care for Medicaid recipients during the pandemic.
STATE PARK VISITORS
NC state park system reports record 22.8M visitors in 2021
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s state parks system saw a record number of visitors last year. WRAL-TV reports that the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources says 22.8 million visitors entered the system’s 41 parks, recreation areas and natural areas. That’s a 15% increase from the 19.8 million visitors in 2020, when visits surged as more people sought outdoor activities amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Jockey’s Ridge State Park was 2021′s most visited park with more than 1.8 million guests. The second most frequented park, Jordan Lake State Recreation Area, saw 84% growth from its nearly 877,000 visitors in 2020. The 2021 numbers reflect even greater interest among the public to visit even after Covid-19 vaccines had become widely available.
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