Stanislaus County Board Of Supervisors Watch

October 17, 2011 

Fraud investigations unpopular with some in-home care providers could be renewed tonight despite shaky state funding.

The item appears on today's Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors' consent agenda, typically approved without comment unless someone requests discussion.

Dozens of disabled people, care providers and union representatives protested for months last year at weekly supervisors' meetings, saying investigators are heavy-handed and arguing against a proposal to reduce providers' wages. Last week, supervisors agreed to extend contract terms with the 4,600 providers until June with hourly pay remaining at $9.38.

The fraud unit has operated since July "at a reduced level" because of funding uncertainty. Tonight, supervisors are expected to accept $349,000 in federal and state money and kick in an extra $62,100 of local money to keep two investigators and a fraud technician on the job.

Last year, the unit identified fraud in 288 cases, or 65 percent of 444 probes, saving an estimated $1.2 million for a return on investment of $2.66 for every dollar spent, a report says.

State officials have warned that anti-fraud money could disappear in January if state revenue falls short. Should that happen, staff would present county supervisors with "a program close-out plan" early next year, the report says.

The board meets at 6 p.m. in the basement chamber at Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St., Modesto. Supervisors also are scheduled to:

• Authorize emergency heat and cooling repairs at the jail in downtown Modesto. Authorities are pursuing an $80 million jail construction grant and hope to replace the 54-year-old jail with more space at the Public Safety Center on Crows Landing Road. But that could take four years and conditions at the aging jail must improve immediately, officials say. They intend to pay Modesto-based Champion Industrial Contractors $637,000 without seeking bids because Champion was the only bidder for previous repairs and has helped the county for 15 years, a report says.

• Create a self-insurance health care option for 3,440 county employees and 500 retirees or people working for special districts, potentially saving $5.1 million. The "high deductible" option requires payment for services as opposed to traditional health maintenance organization plans. The county's HMO premiums increased an average 11.5 percent each year since 2005, a report says. Savings estimates are uncertain because workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and by Service Employees International Union did not ratify a health care proposal; 10 other unions went along.

• Agree to participate in election audits after the Nov. 8 election. The state would pay the county up to $5,000 for the pilot program conducted with the University of California.

• Review an annual report on mental health services. The county spends $63 million each year but "cannot provide mental health services to all who need them," the report says.

• Pay Sacramento-based T.Y. Lin International $921,000 to design an earthquake-resistant bridge on Hills Ferry Road over the San Joaquin River near Newman. Cracks in the existing 647-foot bridge built in 1961 put it on a seismic retrofit list in 2000.

— By Garth Stapley

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