Ultimed update 

News Hits must admit to being utterly perplexed and confused by the world of health care finance. This confession is prompted by our attendance last week at a hearing in the courtroom of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge William Giovan, who is presiding over a case involving several local hospitals, Ultimed HMO, Wayne County and an obscure nonprofit called Urban Hospital Care Plus.

We won’t bore you with all the labyrinthine details of the case (if interested, you can read all about it in, “Ill begotten,” Metro Times, March 31). But here’s one thing that tickled us: The Detroit Medical Center claims Ultimed and UHCP owe the hospital group upward of $21 million. In court last week, the DMC’s lawyer said a settlement has been worked out, with Ultimed agreeing to hand over $2.5 million. Why is the DMC willing to take pennies on the dollar? Could it be that its initial claim was wildly inflated?

Whatever the answer, the case grows ever more unwieldy. As of last week, according to assertions made in court, Ultimed — which contracted to provide health care coverage for Wayne County’s indigent population — owed area hospitals and other health care providers a total of $59 million. Ultimed’s owner, Detroit businessman Harley K. Brown, previously said those claims would not withstand scrutiny. But that’s not all of it. Ultimed’s own attorney, David Tillman, told the court that there’s yet another group of creditors that form Ultimed’s single largest block of debt: money owed to pharmacies contracting with Ultimed. He didn’t specify how much, and didn’t return calls from News Hits seeking clarification.

In addition to all that, Wayne County claims that UHCP — a nonprofit that continues to oversee distribution of county, state and federal dollars allocated to local indigent care — owes it more than $3 million for administrative services that were provided over the course of two years.

Discussion of that part of the case has yet to begin.

The way it looks to News Hits, a lot of dogs are snarling over a bone that doesn’t have nearly enough meat on it. And we hope there’s more than gristle left when it comes time for the county to take its bite.

Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com

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