Category Archives: Government Oversight

No PAC for Disaster Preparedness and Response

Why is this man smiling?

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia’s responses to COVID were a continuing national embarrassment. 

  • Individual Virginia department and agencies had no operational pandemic response plans. They ignored specific and prescient directions to build and exercise such plans in the dormant Virginia Pandemic Emergency Plan. VDEM then attempted a coverup.
  • No PPE stockpiles. Last in testing. Last in vaccinations. Hospitals first, physicians last in every decision by the VDH. 
  • Last in distribution of unemployment checks. 
  • The General Assembly was given and took no role in pandemic response for 15 months.
  • The Canterbury nursing home scandal. State nursing home inspections that failed to report staffing shortages. The directly related shortages in staffing of state inspectors.
  • The failure to sanction teachers unions for strike threats in Northern Virginia during COVID. The officially sanctioned lapse in school accountability.
  • Poorly prepared official press conferences that often added confusion rather than clarity.

This was in its totality the biggest government scandal in Virginia history.

Continue reading

Clean Virginia Dissed Again, Dem Takes Dom Cash

An image of Hala Alaya’s answer to a question on Clean Virginia’s candidate questionnaire, released by it in response to her breaking of that pledge.

by Steve Haner

Prince William Democrat Hala Ayala, who had pledged not to accept campaign contributions from Dominion Energy Virginia and took money instead from its opponents, has now accepted $100,000 from the regulated monopoly. Heads are exploding.

Del. Haya Ayala, D-Prince William

The anti-Dominion activist group Clean Virginia had given her $25,000 in her bid for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.  Now is has announced it will dump $125,000 into a last-ditch digital campaign to defeat her in the June 8 primary. Early voting in the primary has been underway for weeks, however. Early voters upset by this cannot call their ballots back.

Final pre-primary finance reports were released early in the week and word of the contribution quickly hit the Twitterverse, then sparked stories in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch and Virginia Mercury. Continue reading

Vertically Integrated Health Providers/Insurers – Weak State Oversight But New Federal Authority

by James C. Sherlock

In the contest between Virginia’s disorganized attempts to oversee vertically integrated health care and health insurance businesses, Sentara being the most prominent example, and Virginia’s regional monopolies’ defenses against effective regulation and legislation, the monopolies have won.  

This piece discusses Virginia’s failed legislative and regulatory oversight structures. I will recommend structural changes to both to deal with the issues that fall between the cracks.

There is, however, very recent good news.

A new federal antitrust law gives federal courts full authority over integrated healthcare/health insurance business structures operated in restraint of trade. I will briefly describe the potential effects of that change. Continue reading

Sentara CEO Kern Among 10 Highest Paid Nonprofit Executives in America

Sentara CEO Howard Kern

by James C. Sherlock

Sentara CEO Howard Kern is well paid. We will compare his compensation to those of the highest paid non-profit CEOs in the nation and to the CEO of the largest for-profit healthcare system in the country. Turns out he is extremely well paid.  

We should all have his agent.  

Many are unlikely to have thought about it, but non-profits have no stockholders and their boards officially work for the public. As citizens, we may wish for a better board at Sentara, but there is no mechanism for removing them except by government action.  

That is worthy of consideration by the government of Virginia.

Nonprofit CEO compensation comparisons. I examined a survey that listed the ten highest paid nonprofit CEOs of 2019.  Seven of those ten were healthcare CEO’s. The compensation packages of those seven ranged between almost $26 million and $8.3 million. 

Mr. Kern’s compensation package was reported as $8,053,745 on Sentara Healthcare’s IRS Form 990. But Mr. Kern’s 2019 compensation did not really miss the cut overall.If they had known the numbers when it was conducted, that survey team would have listed him as the tenth highest paid non-profit executive in AmericaContinue reading

Selling Virginia Pot? Expect A Union Label

by Steve Haner

When Virginians begin to buy marijuana from state-licensed providers, if Governor Ralph Northam has his way, along with his smiling visage on every baggie of grass you may also find a union label.

I’m kidding about getting high with the governor’s image on the package but using the legalization bill to promote union political goals through a back door is no joke. Future state marijuana licensees may be in danger of losing their ability to sell pot if they fail to live up to various union-driven labor law requirements, set out below.  Continue reading

May Day Brings Virginia’s Labor Revolution

“Liberty Leading the People,” Eugene Delacroix.

by Steve Haner

Four major changes in Virginia’s labor laws delayed at the beginning of the COVID-19 recession will all take effect May 1. All were approved by the 2020 General Assembly once Democrats controlled both legislative chambers and then delayed at the 2020 Veto Session. May Day 2021 is almost here.

Minimum Wage. The 31% increase in the state’s minimum wage, from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour, will have the broadest impact. House Bill 395 and Senate Bill 7 also raised the hourly minimum wage to $11 eight months later, on January 1, 2022, and to $12 a year later on January 1, 2023.  Continue reading

Virginia to Teach Critical Race Theory to Newborns

by James C. Sherlock

George Orwell

George Orwell, call your office. A copy of “Virginia’s (New) Birth-to-Five Early Learning and Development Standards” is on your desk.

For our readers, go here and click the March 19 VDOE press release to download.

The Commonwealth has publishedVirginia’s Foundation Blocks for Early Learning” since at least 2013. They were excellent but voluntary. 

Progressives cannot abide voluntary.

They have always considered parents the biggest obstacle to turning kids into little “social justice” warriors. Virginia’s General Assembly progressives have fixed that problem. The new program is mandatory unless you keep your kids at home until they must by law attend K-12.

Where your kids will get a “late” start on that journey.

Parents have no voice, much less rights in the matter. That is a progressive definition of heaven. (If that word has not been cancelled — hard to keep up.) Continue reading

The Business and Politics of Senior Care in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

We write here often about senior care, the companies that provide it and the politics around that business.

It is useful to understand the continuum of care to make sure we also understand the different financial situations which companies in different parts of that industry find themselves and the way they are overseen and paid in Virginia.

The larger corporations that offer these services often offer both facility and in-home care.

The basic descriptions below are offered for considering the business interests and therefore the lobbying efforts of the companies that provide the services. They are not meant for personal counseling. Continue reading

The Real Nursing Home Scandal in Virginia

Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Richmond

by James C. Sherlock

Mike Martz has written three excellent columns that have appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch starting March 19.  Headline of one: “Virginia tries to move ahead of national ‘reform agenda’ for nursing homes.”

The gist of it was that a couple of national nursing home industry organizations have taken advantage of the public consciousness of the COVID tragedies to produce a “reform agenda” centered around significantly higher Medicaid payments.

Unreported so far is that they also want weaker inspections. More about that below.

We all applaud any attempt to “improve operating standards for nursing homes, initiatives to boost the facilities’ workforce, and efforts to give residents more privacy and protect them from poor-performing nursing homes” as Martz wrote. Who could oppose that?

The financials of nursing homes lead me to agree that higher Medicaid payments will be required to accomplish those goals. But the higher payments need to be accompanied by better oversight to make sure that the money brings the desired outcomes.  Continue reading

Confessions of a Virginia Whistleblower

by James C. Sherlock

State Inspector General Mike Westfall

I decided last week in a paroxysm of good citizenship to contact the Virginia Inspector General (IG) to report wrongdoing by state officials.

I have a considerable list centered around the failure of many state officials to carry out their longstanding, formally-assigned duties pre-COVID to plan for a pandemic emergency and exercise those plans to mitigate the effects of such an occurrence.  

My complaints are based on Virginia Executive Order No. 42  Promulgation of the Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Operations Plan and Delegation of Authority. It was issued by Governor McDonnell and reissued by Governor Northam.

An actionable component of that Order is Hazard-Specific Annex #4 Pandemic Influenza Response (Non-Clinical) was published in August of 2012 (the Annex).  It contained prescient predictions about the course of a pandemic and directed specific agencies to prepare and exercise specific plans. Despite the clear language of the Annex, the plans were not written, personnel were not trained, exercises could not be conducted and systems were not tested under simulated stresses of a pandemic.

Those failures cost unnecessarily severe losses of life, suffering and economic distress among the citizens.  

Continue reading

Social-Emotional Learning — We Are All Aboard for the Ride

James Lane
Superintendent of Public Instruction

by James C. Sherlock

A new educational theory has been implemented while most were not looking.  

The educational-industrial complex is all-in on Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Behold the circle of life of that complex:  

  1. Many education schools have for a very long time been producing “studies” under government grants awarded by ed school grads that prove that SEL will solve, well, everything – including the poor outcomes of everything they researched and credited with magical powers before SEL. This is called “academic inquiry” by actual educational institutions with fewer closed loop interests and higher standards.
  2. The same education schools teach it.
  3. Virginia education policymakers and graduates of the education schools, have fully embraced it. 
  4. Lots of ed school graduates working as consultants are available to spend all those newly minted hundreds of billions of “COVID” dollars sent to the schools. 
  5. There are lots of new jobs in the schools for SEL staffers, ed school grads all.  
  6. And all of that will last until the ed schools come up with a new silver bullet theory to fix the problems created by SEL. This is done by renaming and expanding it.
  7. Go to number 1, set the money cycle on re-wash and press start.

SEL of course, being a full-service silver bullet, requires its own bureaucracies, teacher reeducation, teacher mentors called “coaches”, curricula, classroom time, lesson plans, “data” that need to be viewed through an “equity lens” and of course money, lots of it.  Continue reading

Certificate of Public Need’s Hall of Mirrors

by James C. Sherlock

Versailles Hall of Mirrors

In Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, everything is reflected hundreds of times.

The mirrors were also a commercial. They represented an effort of Louis XIV to establish for France monopolies on the production of luxury goods.

Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law and regulations represent a similar structure.

Everything in the process reflects back on itself. Those reflections both reinforce the structure and cement monopolies. Though it represents the intrigue of Versailles, COPN lacks beauty and grace. But, in another similarity, neither Louis nor Virginia’s General Assembly tried to represent the interests of the people in these enterprises.

This essay will help explain how COPN works. It would be shorter if the tentacles of COPN were not so completely enveloping and self-reinforcing. This is in its entirety both legal and a scandal, as with much else in Virginia politics.

Two recent COPN decisions affect my home area of South Hampton Roads. Those cases pointed to the systemic roadblocks to successfully challenging Sentara Healthcare’s dominance here which will never be surmounted while COPN stands as is. Continue reading

COPN – Don’t Leave Home Without It

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes I think we don’t personalize the effects of Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) program on individual Virginians in ways that are relatable. Nor do many understand the power of the hospital monopolies.

Many readers here have followed the progress of our reporting of the increasing and relentless suppression of competition in healthcare by COPN. I will offer in this essay a single example that may personalize it.

In 2009, the regulation, not the law, that defined the radius from your home of facilities that would be considered when seeing whether you are adequately served by existing open heart surgery facilities was changed as follows:

Title 12. Health » Agency 5. Department Of Health » Chapter 230. State Medical Facilities Plan » Part IV. Cardiac Services

Article 2
Criteria and Standards for Open Heart Surgery

12VAC5-230-440. Accessibility Travel time.

A. Open heart surgery services should be within 30 60 minutes driving time one way, under normal conditions, of 95% of the population of a the [ health ] planning district [ using mapping software as determined by the commissioner ].

Simple change. Thirty minutes was changed to 60 minutes. You surely did not notice. You were meant not to notice. And your elected representatives were not asked to vote on it. Continue reading

Certificate of Public Need – This Seems Promising

by James C. Sherlock

Democrats, the primary bulwarks for the Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law in Virginia, took the opportunity last year to create as part of a major revision to COPN law a new 19-member State Health Services Plan Task Force.  

That group is to advise the Board of Health on the content of the newly renamed State Health Services Plan (ex-State Medical Facilities Plan (SMFP).

I wish the task force luck.  They will need it.

The new task force is apparently a temporary casualty of COVID-19, but it shows how desperate the Democrats (read hospitals) are to revitalize COPN after a 2019 Chesapeake Circuit Court decision and supporting appeals court decision in Chesapeake Hospital Authority d/b/a, etc. v. State Health Commissioner and Sentara Hospitals.  

Both decisions exposed it for what it is — a regional monopoly protection racket that is subjectively applied — and found the administration of the COPN system in Virginia to be incompetent at the same time. Continue reading

All According to Plan – the Biggest Government Scandal in Virginia History

by James C. Sherlock

The Virginia Mercury published  an excellent article on the difficulties being encountered in Virginia in scheduling COVID shots.

But who could have anticipated the need? Who indeed.

This story is part of the single biggest government scandal in Virginia history and the press is either ignorant of the underlying issue or has ignored it. I think ignorance is more likely. Certainly Governor Northam’s executive branch made every effort to hide it from them.

I say the executive branch because I firmly believe — and hope really — the Governor himself never had a clue.

The now-hidden-from-public-view Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Operations Plan, Hazard-Specific Annex #4 Pandemic Influenza Response (Non-Clinical), Virginia Department of Emergency Management August 2012 (the Plan) required planning and exercise of a vaccine distribution plan and much more.

Never happened.

The Plan specified planning, exercise and operational responsibilities for
the following executive branch organizations: Continue reading