The long-awaited Segal Report is out.
That's the consultant study of how the county's employee health care contract has been managed and whether a conflict of interest exists for the company that administrates that plan.
On Wednesday, a local doctor won the lawsuit he filed against the county, forcing it to make the Segal Report public.
Dr. Donald Cornforth wanted the Segal Report made public so we could all see whether it contains evidence to support allegations that Managed Health Care Systems was funneling patients to hospitals owned by its parent company, namely Mercy and Memorial Hospitals, to increase their profits.
That, Cornforth argues, would be a clear conflict of interest because MCS and Mercy and Memorial Hospitals are all owned by Dignity Health Systems.
"It's very clear to me that we have a culture of corruption, number one. And, two, we have a lot of decisions being made behind closed doors out of public disclosure," said Cornforth.
The Segal Group was asked to conduct a review of patient distribution rates among Kern County hospital providers in Bakersfield.
Segal was looking at trends in referrals of county employees needing in-patient and out-patient care from January 2010 through mid-2011.
The Segal Group found Mercy and Memorial Hospitals, the Dignity-owned hospitals, received a collective 59 percent of in-patient expenditures for Bakersfield's five major hospitals.
For out-patient expenditures approved by MCS, Mercy and Memorial received a collective 67 percent.
The study says cash-strapped Kern Medical Center, which is owned by the county, experienced a 13 percent drop in MCS patient expenditures during that 18-month period, but the study didn't say why that happened.
"We know for a fact that the admissions to KMC dropped significantly after the contract went into effect, meaning that patients were re-directed to Memorial and Mercy Hospitals, to Dignity Health. That means significant dollars were transfered out of the county's pocket to Dignity's pocket," said Cornforth.
But, those numbers, in and of themselves, still don't answer the question of whether MCS has been funneling patients to Dignity Hospitals to increase their profits.
That's because we don't know why the patient referral patterns changed.
Managed Care Systems maintained there was no conflict of interest with its county contract.
The company released the following statement:
"There are also no findings that MCS ever acted in any way adverse or detrimental to the County of Kern or to county taxpayers We continue to standby our original statement that no conflict of interest existed as the county's Third Party Administrator, that we continue to save the County of Kern millions of dollars, and that we have always acted in the best interest of the County of Kern."