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A Higher Purpose (Editorial)

2 min read

When did health care become just a business, a revenue generator like any other?

From Senior Editor Mark Friedman’s story on Page 1, Judge Rules Rivendell At Fault in Deadly Tale of Sex, Drugs and Destroyed Evidence, we learn that Rivendell Behavioral Health Services of Arkansas, which provides mental health and substance abuse treatment, hired a drug-addicted nurse who had admitted stealing drugs from patients in pain and had been placed on probation by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing. After a former patient died in this nurse’s home, a judge found that Rivendell destroyed evidence, evidence sought by the patient’s family in its lawsuit against Rivendell.

And when the perversion of health care intersects with the perversion of public service, it creates something doubly abhorrent, as the corruption case involving Preferred Family Healthcare and former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (among many others) illustrates.

Preferred Family’s stated purpose was also to serve the most vulnerable: the mentally ill and addicted. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that from fiscal 2011-18, Preferred Family Healthcare earned $245 million from Medicaid for mental health treatment.

A week ago, Hutchinson pleaded guilty to taking bribes from Preferred Family and admitted to conspiring with its executives to steal from a federally funded program. “Specifically, Hutchinson worked on behalf of the nonprofit to stymie Arkansas Department of Human Services attempts to increase accountability of Medicaid providers and change the program’s payment model, his plea deal says,” the D-G reported.

In other words, while serving as a legislator, Hutchinson — the son of a former U.S. senator and the governor’s nephew and so a scion of privilege if ever there was one — worked to help Preferred Family cheat taxpayers more thoroughly, taxpayers whose dollars were supposed to be going to treat the mentally ill and addicted.

Health care and public service were once considered professional callings, not simply profit centers. Wouldn’t it be nice if they were again?

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