What's Up, Borrego Health?
Last updated 4/21/2022 at 9:30am
Currently, there’s lawsuits piling up against Borrego Community Health Foundation (BCHF) beginning with Mikia Wallis, Borrego Health’s former CEO; Husam Aldairi, winner of the illegal dental sweepstakes, earning $6 million and $8 million annually; two insurance companies; plus, Borrego Health’s own lawsuit against its landlord, and Bruce Hebets’ sidekick, Daryl Priest, for inflated rental rates. Still, there’s no word from the state Department of Justice, (DOJ) regarding criminal charges or prosecutions, California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), and the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)about the reorganization or the future of Borrego Health’s clinics.
There is an unconfirmed rumor that a settlement may be in the works that includes the transfer of clinics to another FQHC non-profit provider. Remember that qualification “Federally Qualified Health Center’’ or FQHC, is the gold standard of the federal government’s insurance and only a limited number of non-profit health care providers enjoy the benefits of a FQHC’s higher Medicare and Medicaid (Medicaid is called Medi-Cal and Denti-Cal in California) reimbursements. Naming another provider to take over troubled health care centers is a common practice among the federal agencies that have FQHC oversight. For example, the Borrego Health Clinic in Julian, which really should have been embarrassed to call itself that, was quickly removed from the Foundation’s network, and passed to the San Ysidro Health Centers (SYHC). Not sure what San Ysidro and Julian have in common. It doesn’t matter, as these arrangements are for the convenience of the government bureaucracy, not patients.
According to sources, the Borrego Health clinics in Riverside County could be transferred to the Riverside Community Health Foundation (RCHF) of which Dan Anderson is CEO. Anderson is also the past Chairman of BCHF, and long-time board member. In other words, he knows where the bodies are buried. The San Diego County clinics operated by Borrego Health would likewise be transferred to an unnamed FQHC, or closed.
That leaves only one unknown – the one Borrego cares about: the Borrego Springs Clinic. Discussions, evidently, revolved around spinning it out on its own, as it was in the beginning, before Borrego Health became, “The fastest growing and most expensive health care non-profit in the country.” The solo clinic, a non-profit on its own, according to sources, would be managed by a group of “Borrego businessmen as the Board of Directors.”
When asked about transfers, Foundation leadership declined to comment. At least that’s the assumption, given Dan Kramer, Borrego Health’s Public Relations Consultant, response was, “Let me talk to some people.” With no further comments.
So, let’s discuss how to solve a financial and legal problem as big as Borrego Health’s with the same leadership that had watchdog duty as some of the Foundation’s operations slipped from legitimate to illegitimate use of federal and state funds. Have the foxes taken over the henhouse?
Sandra Hansberger, a part-time resident of Borrego Springs, is currently chair of the BCHF, inheriting a mess to be sure. She was vice president under Dan Anderson, the previous chairman when the Borrego Sun began asking questions of the Board about its recent tax returns. Hansberger was there when Anderson, bugged by the Borrego Sun, hired a law firm to investigate problems of propriety the newspaper was raising.
She was also seated beside Anderson when the executive summary by the Foundation’s own lawyers presented the results of their investigation. The Sun had eyes on the handpicked lawyers’ recommendations, which began with, “Fire all the officers. Everyone is (probably) complicit.”
Anderson’s Board responded by removing CEO Mikia Wallis, assuming that removing the head of the operations would satisfy everyone. Wallis’ severance happened prior to the FBI/DOJ bust in October 2020. Obviously, everyone wasn’t satisfied.
In the middle of what is now a serious financial crisis arising from the criminal investigations, Anderson continues to maintain, “Nothing is wrong, just a couple of rogue dentists, nothing to worry about,” as he did when the FBI moved in, and as the Sun has quoted many times. Hansberger, now in charge of negotiating through the legal nightmare inherited from Hebets and Wallis, supports Anderson in his view, stating to the newspaper, “When this is all over, you’ll see there’s no fraud.” That’s an extremely crazy assertion when Borrego Health is itself involved in a lawsuit, undertaken by Hansberger and her board, suing landlord Daryl Priest for fraudulently inflated rents.
For starters, according to previous board members, Anderson was never shy about voicing his disdain for Borrego Springs; having the administration in Borrego; and wanting to move everything from Borrego Health to Riverside. He also managed to keep pertinent information from the board, in collusion with Wallis. Anderson resides in Riverside, where he owns two clinics in partnership with BCHF, giving him the FQHC status, and local directors, independent of Borrego Health. He also has offshore accounts and calls himself an investor in health care. While chairman of the BCHF directors, he managed to stack the board with Riverside residents just in case an opportunity arose; and he needed votes. And now it has. He also created the Riverside Community Health Foundation, which has a familiar ring to Borrego Community Health Foundation, making for an almost seamless future consolidation.
The rental fees he charges Borrego for two clinic spaces are inflated, according to realty experts the Sun spoke with. So why isn’t he being sued like Priest for inflated rents and lawsuit subject, instead of raking in rent for two failing clinics. In the latest tax returns, the Foundation stopped disclosing Anderson’s fees or his conflict of interest. Hansberger, attempted to explain this oversight to the Sun, stating that, “Borrego Health accountants discovered that financial dealings with other nonprofits are not required to be disclosed on IRS-990 Tax returns.”
Both Anderson and Hansberger, especially as chairman and vice chairman, had a legal duty to make sure BCHF’s IRS tax filings were accurate. Yet, they both supposedly read and approved tax forms showing contract dentists were making extraordinary amounts of money. The reality of Premier Health, the secret dental health management company put together by Hebets and Priest, had not yet been revealed to the board, nor the average $21 million a year that Priest was taking home. The Sun broke that story.
One reason the board did not know about the Premier deal was that Anderson refused to discuss it, or provide the documents, even when questioned by a board member, Mike Hickok, who was subsequently removed from the board. Sarah Rogers was also removed from the Board for, “Asking too many questions.”
Both Anderson and Hansberger were complacent, complicit, and for whatever reasons, are willing to fight tooth and nail to prove that Borrego Health, which was their responsibility, did nothing wrong. Now this duo is in charge of fixing things!
The only thing the Borrego Sun cared about in exposing Borrego Health’s alleged fraud and other ethical violations was the downhill slide of services at the Borrego Springs clinic. Unfortunately, Hansberger’s response to fixing things for Borrego has not proven helpful to locals working to ensure the clinic’s continuance under the guidance of people that really care and have the expertise to get it back on track.
The Borrego Cares Group was formed immediately after the FBI raid. Meetings first with Anderson and now, Hansberger, have not been productive. When asked why the clinic couldn’t be a stand-alone partner with Borrego Health to ensure the continuance of the FQHC status, but with its own independent board of administrators? Hansberger stated the suggestion was not legal. This was refuted by several members of the Cares Group that actually know what they are talking about. Then, there’s the fact an existing side arrangement/partnership with Anderson and his Riverside Community Health Foundation allows him to advertise and use Borrego’s FQHC status, while maintaining an independent board of directors. There is no difference from this arrangement and the Borrego Cares’ request.
“What’s good for a board member, should also be good for the entire community,” said Dr. Carrolee Barlow, Borrego home owner, former CEO of the Parkinson’s Institute and a member of the Borrego Cares Group. Over two years ago, she, and other medical professionals presented Borrego Health with a plan for upgrading clinic personnel, grants and fundraising, as well as medical opportunities to make money. It was rejected by Anderson. The plan still exists and the group continues to ask Hansberger to meet the community halfway. Something, which to date, she has been unwilling to do. At the same time, she’s declaring, “Everything is fine at the clinic,” and she’s working 24/7 to save it. The clinic could best be saved by a local board of administrators with national reputations, credibility and experience in running clinics and health care non-profits, not people who failed their patients in the past, and lack critical health delivery and administration skills.
The first notations made by the monitors, assigned by the state Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to help Borrego Health clean up its act, upon meeting with the Borrego Health Board was, “What’s with the outrageous salaries. Cut the number of officers and friends making high salaries, and reduce the salaries.”
The monitors also recommended that Borrego Health, “Get rid of the inexperienced people running key departments and replace them with people that have the credentials for these positions.” The monitors went on to name the specific offices that needed real qualifications. Unfortunately, many of these people continue to be on the Borrego Health payroll. Some, such as Anna Navarro, have been hired back as consultants, which means their names and salaries remain a secret and are not disclosed on the Foundation’s IRS-990s.
According to Barlow, the worst part of Hansberger’s position is that she doesn’t seem to care either to involve the community in discussions about the precarious situation facing the Borrego Springs Clinic or cooperate with interested community members ready with a solution.
“We are looking for a way to, not only save the clinic, but to plan for its sustainable future as an integral and necessary part of Borrego’s health and emergency delivery systems. You can’t do that without a discussion between those with expertise in primary care, and the community,” Dr. Barlow added.
Another member of the Borrego Cares Group responded to the Sun with, “Worse yet, Hansberger has never met with the community while playing with the future of the clinic, and constantly expresses hostility toward offers to help.”
Clients or citizens concerned about the Julian Clinic transferred to the San Ysidro Health Centers (SYHC) must go to Chula Vista to find the SYHC board of directors. Chula Vista probably knows and cares as much about Julian, as Borrego Health cares about Borrego Springs.
The Borrego Sun has been requesting the Borrego Health Board of Directors come clean with the community since beginning its recent investigation three years ago. It would appear they have no plans to do so, even now, as the fate of the clinic is on the table. Borrego Springs has two choices: Give Hansberger, and local board members motivation to meet with the community, or by pass the Borrego Health Board and go directly to the federal and state regulators with a request to listen to what the Borrego Cares group has to offer, and to grant Borrego Springs local, administrative control of the clinic.