Ex-workers balk at SynCare bankruptcy

February 13, 2012

It’s been a messy end for SynCare LLC, the once fast-growing Indianapolis-based disease-management company.

The company’s demise in August pushed CEO Stephanie DeKemper into personal bankruptcy in late December and the company itself will file its own bankruptcy case as early as this week.

DeKemper’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing lists 147 employees who are owed unpaid wages. Overall, DeKemper, 54, lists liabilities of nearly $6 million and assets of $794,000.

Some of SynCare’s former workers have complained bitterly to the bankruptcy judge in Indianapolis, James K. Coachys, that DeKemper has more assets than she has declared in the filing.

“If Mrs. DeKemper is allowed to get away with all the hardship her and her company has caused,” former SynCare employee Mike Miller wrote in a letter, “then that would be a grievous error on the part of your court.”

Miller, a Missouri resident, said he was not paid for his last three weeks of work for SynCare, costing him $2,500, according to DeKemper’s bankruptcy filings. That caused him to become delinquent on his mortgage payments.

Tony Jost, who is representing DeKemper, said she drained her own retirement account—nearly $200,000—to try to save the company. It effectively ceased operation in September after the Missouri Medicaid program revoked a major contract it had signed with SynCare and after St. Louis-based Centene Corp.—which was both a client of and a lender to SynCare—stopped funding the company’s operations.

DeKemper’s bankruptcy filing states that Centene is still owed nearly $2 million.

“She invested a huge amount of her personal assets to try to keep this thing afloat,” Jost said. “She wanted to keep the business going.”

DeKemper is now working as a “part-time contract employee” for Maryland-based Coventry Health Care, according to Jost. But that working arrangement led one former SynCare employee to claim that some of the SynCare company assets had been transferred to Coventry.

“Coventry Health Care assets should be used to pay back all of DeKemper’s creditors because of the possibility that DeKemper moved assets to Coventry Health Care,” former SynCare employee Gary Baughman wrote in a Jan. 22 letter to Coachys.

Jost said he had no knowledge of any asset transfers to Coventry.

Baughman, who is still owed nearly $2,000 in unpaid wages, according to DeKemper’s bankruptcy filing, also claims that his and other employees’ contributions to their health and dental insurance were never paid to SynCare’s insurer, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Some employees complained that their medical claims were denied by Anthem as early as September.

But Jost said all employee contributions were paid to Anthem. The problem was, SynCare could no longer pay its share of the Anthem premiums, which led to the denial of claims.

SynCare used nurses and social workers to call and visit Medicaid patients to evaluate their needs and teach them how to handle their health issues, in order to avoid expensive hospitalizations. The goal in Missouri was also to help the state Medicaid plan save money by getting an upfront determination of how much care patients need.

DeKemper started at SynCare in 2008 as a consultant and purchased the company in early 2010.

She quintupled the staff over the next year as SynCare took on a $5.5 million contract in Missouri to determine whether Medicaid patients were eligible for home-based care.

But after just four months, SynCare withdrew from the contract after a public outcry by patients and patient advocates. Patients and advocates held news conferences around the state on Aug, 30 alleging SynCare staffers were unprepared, overwhelmed and poorly trained.

But DeKemper said the problems were caused by poor instructions from Missouri health department officials. When the contract began, she said last year, Missouri officials told SynCare it would need 20 people in a call center and 110 employees in the field to perform care assessments for patients. After the call center was repeatedly overwhelmed, state officials were slow to allow a change in the company's staffing levels, she said.


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