The Multinational Monitor

  December 2002 - VOLUME 23 - NUMBER 12

N A M E S    I N    T H E    N E W S

The Tenet Markup

Tenet Healthcare, the national for-profit hospital chain, places a sticker price on drug charges of 736 percent above its costs across the United States, according to a November study by the California Nurses Association and the Institute for Health and Socio-Economic Policy.

The study examined federal cost reports for approximately 42,000 filings for more than 5,000 U.S. hospitals from fiscal years 1993-1994 through 1999-2000, the most recent data available.

The charges are for billings to all payers, including Medicare and private health maintenance organizations (HMOs), and include both in-patient and outpatient filings.

Tenetís markup on drug charges is more than double the national average.

In California, where Tenet has been accused of pressuring heart patients to undergo unneeded heart surgeries at a hospital in Redding, five Tenet hospitals, including Redding Medical Center, have markup charges of more than 1,400 percent.

The nurses charge that the huge drug markups by Tenet and other hospital systems are a major component of rising healthcare costs.

Over the past seven years, average drug markups over cost for all Tenet hospitals nationally have jumped from 488 percent in fiscal year 1993-1994 to 736 percent in 1999-2000.

Nationally for all U.S. hospitals, the markup has risen from 302 percent to 334 percent.

Ford and the Dirty War

Ford Argentina has been criminally charged in connection with the alleged illegal detention of workers and labor leaders during the 1970s.

A prosecutor in Argentina has ordered an investigation of charges brought by labor leader Pedro Troiani that he was bound with wire, kicked and held for eight hours on Ford factory grounds.

Troiani told the New York Times that he and four other Ford employees were then transferred to a secret prison and eventually to a special detention camp as part of the "dirty war" against anyone considered a leftist opponent by the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1976 to 1983.

A spokesperson for Ford Argentina, Rolo Ceretti, told the Times that he could neither confirm nor deny Troianiís account "because these events happened 26 years ago and most of the people who worked at the company no longer do."

But, he said, "to talk of a detention center within our plant is not correct."

"This was a very sad and bitter time," he added, "and no one can defend what happened. But to attempt to place responsibility on the company for things that happened at the level of the government seems to me to be a bit absurd."

According to the Timesí report, the case is an outgrowth of similar charges made against Mercedes-Benz, today a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler.

Servitude in Sunshine

Three Florida citrus contractors received lengthy prison sentences in November for conspiring to hold workers in involuntary servitude, harboring undocumented workers, interfering with interstate commerce by extortion, and using firearms during the course of a violent felony.

United States District Judge K. Michael Moore sentenced brothers Ramiro Ramos, age 42, and Juan Ramos, age 34, to 12 years and 3 months imprisonment each. Their cousin Jose Ramos, age 45, was sentenced to 10 years and 3 months imprisonment and also received a $10,000 fine.

In addition, Judge Moore ordered defendants Ramiro and Juan Ramos to forfeit real estate, personal property and more than $3 million in proceeds, because the jury in the case determined that the property was used in furtherance of the conspiracy or was obtained as a result of the criminal enterprise.

On June 28, 2002, following a trial that spanned four weeks, a jury found defendants Ramiro Ramos and Juan Ramos guilty of conspiring to hold workers in involuntary servitude and harboring undocumented workers. The jury also found Ramiro, Juan and Jose Ramos guilty of interfering with interstate commerce by extortion, and use of a firearm during the course of a violent felony.

The evidence at trial established that Ramiro and Juan Ramos worked as farm labor contractors under the company name, R&A Harvesting, Inc., and that they engaged in a conspiracy to hold migrant farm laborers in involuntary servitude and supply those laborers to citrus industry growers.

Witnesses at trial testified that Ramiro and Juan Ramos employed up to 700 workers, the vast majority of whom were undocumented, from January 2000 to June 2001.

The Ramosís recruited workers by paying their transportation debts from Arizona to Florida. The Ramosís threatened their workers with violence and told them they could not leave until they paid off a $1,000 debt to the Ramosís.

The investigation lasted two years and began after members of the Coalition for Immokalee Workers, an advocacy organization that represents migrant farm workers in Florida, contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and alerted the Bureau to abuses by the defendants.

ó Russell Mokhiber