Pickering debates – Is it really about a casino? What the hell is it about?

Why is the Group of Four
(Ryan, Dickerson, Pickles, Ashe)
so anxious to get it approved before the municipal election?
Do they have personal interest in this development?

Pickering received an application from the Pickering Developments Inc. to rezone three pieces of land near Bayly and Church streets for a “large tourism development”, Durham Live.

What, when and who is going to build this tourist destination area?
Well that’s pretty vague.

Nobody is sure. Even the developer, Pickering Developments, included a long list of possible amenities and the timeframe for this development to take shape over 15-20 years.

As the developer’s legal representative Katarzyna Sliwa indicated, the proposal is not for a casino, there is no detailed plans like that. What the developer wants is to have rezoning done. And then we will see what is going to be built and when. For all we know, they may build a Chinese cultural welcome center.

The degree of vagueness and misinformation about the Durham Live project begs the following questions:

  • Who is the current owner of the land in question?
  • Who profits the most from the re-zoning?
  • What other parties are involved?
  • What is the exact relationship between Pickering Developments and the individuals of this Group of Four?

One would assume that the original zoning was done with careful consideration of many factors. Before one adjusts these zoning plans, specific information should be available as to the reasons for the change so that an informed decision can be made. The unanswered questions and the general vagueness does not permit an informed decision.

This Group of Four appears to have some hidden agenda. One gets the impression that they are patiently going through the motions of hearing from concerned groups and individuals, but will eventually approve the rezoning no matter what issues are brought forward.

It’s time that these individuals in this Group of Four come clean and share with their constituents what this is really all about.
 

Lack of integrity of Pickering Council leaders


 
News Advertiser Editorial (dated Jan 23, 2014) described very well the disrespectful behavior displayed by Pickering’s Deputy Mayor Doug Dickerson at the Jan. 20 executive committee meeting.

As I have observed the council and committee meetings for a number of years, I’m not surprised that Councillor Dickerson doesn’t feel he has any obligation to conduct himself in a professional way. He feels privileged, sure that there will be no consequences, he also has the support of Mayor Dave Ryan and of two Councillors: Kevin Ashe and David Pickles. (See the video of September 16th, Council meeting – slide forward to the 36 minute 50 second mark, which is the start of the delegations, Council discussion and voting).

It was the same when he was attempting to defend his election overspending during the 2010 Election campaign in Court. Remember the 288 bottles of alcohol that were found in his basement worth over $14,000? In the end he pleaded guilty and it cost us taxpayers almost $300,000. It all could have been avoided if Mayor Ryan cared about the integrity of his Council, and took appropriate action at the beginning of the whole circus.

But I think it is too much to ask from our mayor. Claiming that this is the “cost of democracy” he basically agrees that it is OK to take city money, buy booze, put it in the basement and still be a Deputy Mayor. To add insult to injury Mayor Ryan presented his Deputy Dickerson with Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Actually Mayor Ryan uses the same tactics his deputy, D. Dickerson,
showed us at the Jan. 20 meeting name-calling. In response to my letter with concerns about his probable conflict of interest (approving donations to charities while being a member of the charity), Mayor Ryan, during the council meeting, engaged in similar name-calling, he called the person who wrote the letter as “naïve and ill informed” (see the clip of the council meeting video).

 

Property Taxes – Can you afford to stand back and do nothing?


 
As News Advertiser reports, new budget guidelines for 2014 for property tax increase  in Pickering  are  3.9% (municipal) and 2.35% (regional). See articles: Pickering could see 3.9-per cent tax hike in 2014 ,  Durham looks to hold 2014 tax hike at 2.35 per cent .

Year after year Durham region and the City of Pickering increase the amount we pay for property taxes. Why not create guidelines to prevent the increase of taxes? Other municipalities can do it so why not Pickering? Windsor hasn’t increased their property taxes in 5 years (see article “Across the river from bankrupt Detroit, Windsor boasts five years without a tax hike”).

Property taxes in Toronto are half of what we pay in Pickering.  For example for a house worth $400,000 property tax in Pickering was $2,300 more than in Toronto.

Here are the values from 2013:

Toronto  Property Tax Calculator
Toronto Property Tax Calculator

Pickering’s tax rate for 2013 was around 1.3% (0.01321446) comparing to Mississauga’s 0.93% (0.00926648) and Toronto’s 0.74% (0.00745765). Almost twice as much! 

Do we get more or better services than Torontonians do? I don’t think so. So what’s the problem? Are our local politicians and staff not capable of preparing a budget that serves the residents?

Maybe some of our politicians are not motivated enough because there is so little involvement from the residents.  Many people complain about high property taxes but they avoid active participation in the City’s budget discussions. As one of the City Councilors described it during a council meeting, where does the arbitrary figure of a 3.9% ceiling come from?
 

Health fraud runs rampant


 

According to the OPP Health Fraud Investigations’ website [update April 2018- OPP website is not available anymore] , health fraud investigations are conducted in 3 areas of health care services:

  • Provider Fraud (physicians, pharmacists, optometrists) – fraudulent billings for medically unnecessary services or “bogus” services
  • User Fraud  – abuse and misuse of the health care system ( example: receiving health care services while using somebody else’s OHIP health card or illegally obtained health card)
  • Drug Diversion – black market trade in narcotics and other prescription medication

The FBI estimates that Health Care Fraud costs American tax payers $80 billion a year (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/white_collar/health-care-fraud).  I’m not aware of any current estimates for Ontario, but I suspect it is well over $300 million a year.
Recently Deb Matthews, in order to control health care costs and save $338 million, cut  fees for OHIP services.  If the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) was doing a better job in the accountability and fraud areas, none of these fee cuts would be necessary. Deb Matthews continues to penalize honest doctors;  fraudsters continue to claim “bogus” services to OHIP and OHIP pays.

It is good news though, that there are more and more people who are interested in finding out what  the MOHLTC actually does in order to identify and prevent fraudulent practices. They argue that the Ministry does not do enough, that the OHIP claim system lacks proper validation of submitted claims.

Take for example a request that was made to the MOHLTC  under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act  and described in “Order PO-3105, Appeal PA11-235, MOHLTC, August 21, 2012”  
[old link] http://www.ipc.on.ca/english/Decisions-and-Resolutions/Decisions-and-Resolutions-Summary/?id=8971
[new link] https://decisions.ipc.on.ca/ipc-cipvp/orders/en/item/133973/index.do.
The appellant made a request for access to information relating to the “Rules for determining the Validity and Eligibility of claims and the Medical Rules for the Assessment of OHIP claims.”  If the Ministry could provide the validation rules that they follow to detect ineligible or fraudulent claims, it would be easy to check if the Ministry really implemented these rules in the OHIP system.

There are too many scandals with accountability and lack of oversight in MOHLTC that cost Ontarians billions (eHealth, ORNGE, Diabetes Registry).  It is reasonable to ask what kind of mechanisms the Ministry have to prevent paying for fraudulent claims. Or does the Ministry just pay without any checking?

I was very entertained by the Ministry answer to the above request:

“ Medical rules for determining the validity and eligibility of claims are embedded in the OHIP medical claims processing system and are part of the application program code. They are not documented.”

 

Wow! Everything is in the program code. Is Ministry saying that there are no business requirements documents describing rules for validation of OHIP claims? Test plans are created from requirements documents…are there no test plans? Is there any testing done at all?

And here is more entertaining news from the Ministry.  Medical  Rules are not documented but there is a document with “computerized medical rules”:

“A document containing 1,363 pages that sets out the computerized medical rules of assessment of OHIP claims was located. Access to the document is being denied pursuant to sections 18(1)(c), (d) and 14(1)(i) of the Act.”

 

These answers from the Ministry don’t make sense. It seems to be that the Ministry does not want to admit that the OHIP claims system does not  validate claims, there is no accountability.  Ministry answer is “go fish”.

Some of the medical rules that the OHIP claims system should be using for validation can be found in the  Community Health Center Payment and Reporting Guide  or Billing Payment Guide for Blended Salary Model (BSM) Physicians.

 

Privacy Circus in Ontario


 
One of the mandates of Information and PrivacyCommissioner Ann Cavoukian’s Office is to review the decisions and practices of health information custodians in regard to personal health information and ensure compliance with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).

One would think that IPC, after receiving complaints about a health provider who is negligent, would review the practices of this provider and as a government regulator do something to protect individuals. Complaints such as:

  • privacy breaches – sending another patient’s records to an individual
  • systemic failure – wrong diagnostic codes used for patients for many years without a physician’s knowledge

But that’s not the case. The IPC office did some investigation, invoked their “breach protocol process”, but at the end – dismissed the complaint! I suppose the health provider can continue mixing patients health records and sending them anywhere, put wrong diagnoses in their files.  All without fear of Commissioner Ann Cavoukian’s action.

Many people can be hurt by this kind of negligence and can suffer substantial damages.

“Privacy policies that are not reflected in actual practice through strong implementation, training, and auditing will fail to safeguard personal information against privacy risks” – Ann Cavoukian

So what is a real ‘privacy breach’ for Commissioner Cavoukian?

Greater attention is paid in a case where information akin to that contained in a telephone book is made public. Like with Elections Ontario’s “unprecedented privacy breach” when 2 USB sticks went missing. These USB sticks contained basic information, as you can find in any telephone book, with the exception of birth date.

Is there more concern that the public may discover who is on the voters list, or is it of greater concern that a patient’s private health information is compromised?

Commissioner Cavoukian and her Office should start practicing what she advocates and writes about. As she said in the “A Policy is Not Enough: It Must be Reflected in Concrete Practices”,  there should be some action taken not just empty words.

 

Health Care, OHIP


 

Those who work in the Ontario health care sector know that too much money is wasted. Too much money goes to Who Knows Where.

From time to time we hear about a new “health care” scandal. We’ve heard about $1 billion e-health scandal, ORNGE, Family Health Teams “ghost” employees, probably something else is going to show up next month.

Why is it like that?

Because Ministry of Health has a very serious accountability problem. Fraudulent activity is allowed, government officials do not bother to do anything about it. They prefer to reduce the number of services OHIP pays for, cut doctor’s fees, blame it on the aging population. But if they had addressed rampant fraud in Health Care these measures would not be necessary.

Take for example the case described in the Information and Privacy Commissioner order against Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care from 2001 [old link] http://www.ipc.on.ca/english/Decisions-and-Resolutions/Decisions-and-Resolutions-Summary/?id=3440 .
[new link] https://decisions.ipc.on.ca/ipc-cipvp/orders/en/item/131217/index.do .

“The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (the Ministry) received correspondence from a requester who identified that he had been provided with a ‘decoded list of services’ billed Health Insurance Plan(OHIP)account by an identified doctor(the doctor).

The requester noted that the services listed in this record are false. His letter stated that the incorrect services listed in the record included treatment for malignant neoplasms-brain, alcoholism, anxiety neurosis, hysteria, neurasthenia and reactive depression. His letter also sets out that while the doctor had provided some services to him in the past, specifically flu shots and physical examinations, the doctor had not treated him for any of the conditions listed in the record.
The requester also stated that he has never had any of these medical conditions, nor has he been treated for them. The requester asked the Ministry to remove these inaccurate claims from his record.”

 

Once the fraudulent claims were made, and the phony data is entered into the system, it looks like these records stay with the patient forever.

If you are looking for a job, buying insurance or waiting for a surgery, you will be treated in accordance with these erroneous health records.

To receive a list of services that were claimed against you as a patient, you can submit a request to the Ministry of Health (request form is called “Request to Access Personal Health Information (PHIPA) “ and can be found on the Information and Privacy Commissioner web site https://www.ipc.on.ca/access/accessing-information-2/requesting-personal-information/.

I encourage you to do so. It is good to know what data the Ministry has about you. Particularly that it is almost impossible to have this fraudulent information removed.