Yankee Institutes investigative reporter Zach Janowski examined the IRS reports of The Universal Health Care Foundation for the last few years from 2004 through 2008 and discovered – big surprise! – that the foundation “gave more than $1.1 million dollars in grants to organizations affiliated with its own board members.”
The Universal Health Care Foundation, Mr. Janowski reported, “has a unique history. It was created to settle a lawsuit by Connecticut’s public employee unions, then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and then-Comptroller Nancy Wyman against Anthem when it purchased Blue Cross and Blue Shield.”
That was then.
It did not take the foundation long to butter the bread of those affiliated with the Blumenthal inspired organization.
Under the direction of Mr. Blumenthal, the mandate of the attorney general’s office often seemed to be the regulation of private businesses that had in some way or other run afoul of consumer protection regulations. In the course of his 20 year tenure as attorney general, Mr. Blumenthal either sued or threatened to sue such various businesses as cereal makers and internet ad producers. The threat of costly suits that easily could last for years often was enough to bring to their knees those accosted by the attorney general’s office, even in cases where culpability was questionable.
In 1997, Mr. Blumenthal, state Comptroller Nancy Wyman and a coalition of labor and advocacy organizations brought suit against the for-profit Anthem Insurance Company following Anthem's merger with the non-profit Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Connecticut. The purpose of the suit was to recover from the merger tax benefits and other concessions that the non-profit Blue Cross & Blue Shield had received over several decades from Connecticut. Anthem agreed to a settlement in 1999 and Mr. Blumenthal withdrew his suit.
The Universal Health Care Foundation, created to facilitate the dispersion of the resulting settlement funds, received $41 million to carry out the conditions of the settlement, described by Mr. Blumenthal at the time as “an historic victory.”
The foundation was charged with effectuating system-wide heath care reform, and the Blumenthal settlement established the foundation’s legal obligation to improve health care for those most needing it.
Juan Figueroa, chosen by the Hartford Business Journal in 2007 as "Health Care Hero," became president of the organization in January, 2003. Mr. Figueroa has worn several hats during his long and distinguished career: former community organizer, former Connecticut legislator, former assistant attorney general of Connecticut and former president and general counsel of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York. The foundations’ chief focus, Mr. Figueroa said in 2004, was the passage of universal health care.
According to its mission statement, the foundation’s vision embraces “a system of affordable, quality health care that is accessible to all Connecticut residents. People and communities will be healthy and live in a just society that focuses on prevention and the health of all people. The health care workforce will be ethnically and racially diverse. Its workplace will value employees and the people they serve.”
Mr. Janowski reports that the grants given byThe Universal Health Care Foundation to organizations affiliated with it’s own board members represent “13 percent of total foundation awards over the five year period… These and other activities funded by the foundation generated support for several iterations of SustiNet legislation before the General Assembly, including a current bill calling for a government-run insurance company or public option.”
And Mr. Janowski’s report does not hesitate to name names and cite figures:
“Lori Pelletier, vice-chairman of the foundation and its parent organization, the Connecticut Health Advancement and Research Trust, is the secretary-treasurer of Connecticut AFL-CIO.Mr. Blumenthal, elevated to the U.S. Senate from his former position as attorney general, possibly was in no condition or mood to monitor the incestuous connections between The Universal Health Care Foundation and those member unions of the AFL-CIO that received funds from Mr. Blumenthal’s settlement. To make the connections more transparent, Mr. Janowski has supplied in his report a chart that even an ex-attorney general may easily follow:
“Connecticut AFL-CIO did not receive any money directly from the foundation. However, five of its member unions received money during the past five years for a total of $304,000.
“Pelletier is also a trustee of the John J. Driscoll United Labor Agency (received $147,100), an advisory board member of Grow Jobs Connecticut (received $166,300) and a board member of Citizens for Economic Opportunity (received $475,000).”
Far removed from his former responsibilities, it is not likely Mr. Blumenthal can provide a necessary corrective by, say, bringing suit to recover the funds that have enriched unions. But current Attorney General George Jepsen, the heir of Mr. Blumenthal’s legacy, may want to have a look see at Mr. Janowski’s pie chart.