May 1, 2012
Louis Kraml, the Idaho hospital CEO who formed ICS to land a questionable sole-source billing contract with CHC, made the headlines in his hometown paper in Blackfoot, Idahao, made an evening Idaho Newscast and headlined other Idaho press. (Link to KIDK3 Eyewitness News Video)
The Morning News story details the history of the CHC's billing mess, the pathetic $5 million budget and other details of the CNMI's failure to administer the island's only hospital.
The article portrays Kraml as a white knight riding in to save the CHC and did not mention the profit he will pocket or address any hard hitting questions residents of the CNMI have about the contract.
But the evening newscast, Local News 8 was not so kind to Kraml:
He said JAG Consulting and ICS are for Saipan business, LDK and KConco are existing but inactive, and the rest, he said, are related to Bingham Memorial, which is also registered to him as BMH, Inc.
"This is me moonlighting, okay," he said. "Which is, I can do that with my contract at the hospital.
But when that contract earned him more than $700,000 in 2009, according to 990 tax forms, it raises the question: When does the CEO have time to moonlight?
"When I sit back, I've probably got an extra two-and-a-half, three hours a day I can contribute," he said.
Kraml said he took a week of vacation days to make his first and only visit to Saipan. He said ICS doesn't have an office, but emphatically stated that work is not performed at Bingham Memorial.Two to three hours a day for a business like this? No way! No office? He claims no Bingham Hospital employees will be doing the billing. So who will? Who are the employees of ICS and what are their qualifications?
As for ICS's legitimacy, Kraml claims it has integrity based on a letter from "Saipan hospital's board of trustees and director"! He must be joking.
This is a money-making deal for Kraml and Cochran. Period.
As questions about the CHC-Kraml contract remain unanswered, Marianas Varitety reporter Tammy Doty raised many of the same questions that I also raised about the contract in my April 9th post, CHC Contract Raises Questions.
A hastily formed contract tied to Bingham Memorial Hospital's highest administrators in Blackfoot, Idaho was nullified by the CNMI Attorney General, and is currently being re-written. The original contract between International Consulting Services, LLC (ICS) was signed by the Commonwealth Health Corporation's CEO Juan Babauta on February 28, 2012, four days after the sketchy company, ICS was formed.
On April 18th, AG Buckingham issued a cease and desist letter to Babauta saying that a contract signed only between ICS member Kraml and CHC CEO Babauta was not legal.
Idaho ICS member Dan Cochran was in Saipan with his wife reportedly to rewrite the contract and seal the deal. Cochran works as COO of the Bingham Memorial Hospital in Idaho. There is no word on why Valerie Kraml, Louis Kraml's daughter and California attorney is listed as the owner on the company incorporation paperwork filed with NMI’s commerce department, as the Marianas Variety reported.
The timeline of ICS's organization, the contract's secret signing in California, the number of registered LLCs Kraml and other Bingham Hospital players have registered in Idaho (see previous post), all suggest something is not on the up and up with this deal. The refusal of Cochran to answer reporter's questions, and the fact that he acted so difiantly to Marianas Variety reporter Tammy Doty further suggests that something is fishy with this deal. The Variety reported:
After introductions Variety posed a series of questions to Cochran but he refused to provide even basic information.This is not the behavior or response one would expect from a professional COO of a hospital. The man sounds sketchy just like the contract. Why not answer questions if all is legitimate with the contract? Perhaps Cochran's odd behavior and rudeness should be the next headline in Idaho.
“I will never, EVER, answer your questions,” stated Cochran.
Probing further, Variety asked why a company willing to extract millions of dollars in fees from a small, poor, rural community would not provide information about itself to that same community.
Cochran kept smiling, repeated his first answer and referred me to CHC executive officer James Phillips and Babauta saying, “Ask them, they know everything about ICS.”
Variety informed Cochran that Babauta and Phillips had advised this reporter to speak to him directly.
As the circular conversation continued, Variety pushed for an answer as to why ICS was not forthcoming with company information.
Cochran changed the subject and stated, “I have to go meet my wife at the hotel, ‘Good luck with that [getting ICS information].’”
Another questions remains. Why didn't AG Buckingham insist that the job be put up for a bid?
The Morning News in Blackfoot, Idaho reported that Kraml's contract with Bingham Hospital does not prevent him from having outside contracts.
Since the stories about the ICS-CHC contract have been published in the Idaho news people have posted comments that further support that the contract is likely to be a bad idea for the CHC. On the Local News 8 website the majority of the comments are negative towards Kraml and the Idaho hospital.
- Karen Larson said, “Look out Saipan! Bingham Memorial needs to work on a lot of major problems and improve their quality before they make a mess out of another facility.”
- Cathy wrote, “I think there needs to be a long hard look at all that is happening in upper management at that hospital. @ Kraml "Me thinks you protest too much!!"
- Maryan said, “This hospital should do better serving the community first before trying to do a crappy job else where. Reasons why i go to Idaho Falls hospitals over anything in blackfoot and i live there.”
- DonnaC said, “he "laughed it off?" it's a moneymaking proposition that's "from his heart?" He's making "$700,000" as CEO of Bingham, and getting rid of good, established doctors with large practices right and left in favor of temporary, unknown doctors who are here for a year and gone. Please let him go to Saipan, and stay there.”
- Spoofendiker commented, “I work at Bingham Memorial Hospital and haven't seen Kraml in 6 months or Dan in over a year. Just wait until the investigators look into how much the doctors are being paid compared to other hospitals! The fact that they can do this "on their own time" while managing a boutique "critical access hospital" is laughable. This guy is slicker than pig-pen floor though and will come out smelling like a rose.”
- Blackfootnative wrote, "BMH is a disaster waiting to happen. My experience with it after moving to Blackfoot was going to the emergency room in the middle of the night with severe abdominal pain related to bleeding ulcers. After losing blood, waiting around curled up on the couch in pain for an hour, I told my wife I'd prefer to go somewhere else. We went to Portneuf and they immediately got us in and treated us like human beings.
After complaining to management of the issue, a nurse called and chewed on me for not letting them know how serious my problem was. Hmm, I thought the fact that I was in the emergency room in the middle of the night, bleeding, and curled in pain would have been indication enough.
My advice-- go to ERMC or Portneuf where they care about people and and not just the new wood trim. If you can't make it to ERMC or Portneuf, I'd try some of the vet clinics in town. At least you will be respected in those establishments."
Not a good endorsement at all from the people in Blackfoot, Idaho who should know Kraml's reputation and the status of the hospital there.
It is remarkable that the AG would even consider approving a contract that was clearly written specifically for CHC. The company has no prior record or experience since CHC is the only client of ICS (if the contract is approved).
More on the CHC and ICS:
CHC Contract Raises Questions
CHC Death Imminent
CHC Employees Should Sue
An Official State of Emergency at CHC
CHC Soon Just a Building
Healthcare Crisis in CNMI Must Be Addressed
Critical Money Woes Put CHC on Life Support
Made in the USA: Saipan's Backdoor to the United States
CNMI's Hospitals on Life Support
Unsafe to Live in the CNMI?