Kentucky Congressman Exploits Legislation to Loot Taxpayers

Politicians and corruption go together like peanut butter and jelly. For years, many of the crooked were able to fly under the radar because of growing apathy to politics in mainstream America. But the collapse of the housing market slapped citizens awake, helping shine a giant spotlight on our miscreant representatives.

Yet there’s one congressman who has escaped public scrutiny: Kentucky Democrat John Yarmuth.

Yarmuth was one of the 28 lawmakers who helped draft the health care bill while having financial holdings in the industry.  Yarmuth holds up to $5 million in stock in a home health care company run by his brother, William Yarmuth. The company is called Almost Family.  In a mutually beneficial relationship, Almost Family receives over 80% of its revenue through Medicare while most of the legislation impassioning Yarmuth involves expanding Medicare.

In 2006, when Yarmuth was first elected to the House, Almost Family began rapidly buying up Medicare-certified agencies, acquiring 21 Florida agencies just in that year. Though based in Louisville, Almost Family has successfully expanded operations to several states over the last few years, becoming one of the nation’s largest home health care companies. And while the company expanded, Yarmuth worked on legislation to increase Medicare spending.

According to Business First, Almost Family’s first quarter profits this year rose 19% due in part to “an increase in Medicare reimbursements.” Its first quarter revenues grew to $81.1 million from last year’s $68.9 million.

Although Kentuckians didn’t like the monstrous health care takeover, Yarmuth played a key role in its passage. He helped House Speaker Nancy Pelosi negotiate votes from House members who weren’t in favor of the bill, and Pelosi asked Yarmuth to lead a health reform message group.  Yarmuth’s job was to help members in “communicating the Democrats' health-care message.”

Nearly two-thirds of Kentuckians thought the bill should never become law. But Yarmuth ignored his constituents, obeyed Pelosi, and kept his focus on his fattening wallet.

Immediately after the House passed the health care bill he helped draft, Yarmuth wrote, “Much of the savings from insurance reform will be invested into Medicare.”

According to Almost Family CEO William Yarmuth, he has his brother to thank for the increasing profits and better ability to plan more company expansion. “The recent passage of health care reform legislation now provides us with reasonable reimbursement visibility for the next three years,” said CEO Yarmuth.

But Almost Family’s growth will go far beyond three years. According to Congressman Yarmuth, “Much of the savings from insurance reform will be invested into Medicare with a six percent increase expected for the program annually over the next decade.” Almost Family’s stocks will likely surge with each passing year.

Still, John Yarmuth is working to raise his profits even more.  Of all the bills he has sponsored or co-sponsored during the current congressional term, over half have been health care related.

He is one of the co-sponsors of H.R. 676, the Medicare for All Act. Better invest in Almost Family now, because once this passes and Medicare is available to everyone, stocks will skyrocket.

He also co-sponsored the Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act of 2009 and the Home Healthcare Nurse Promotion Act of 2009. The former bill would “repeal a provision of the Balanced Budget Act (BBA) of 1997 that placed an annual financial limitation on rehabilitation services under Medicare.” The latter will “increase home healthcare services,” and help in the “retention of home healthcare nurses.”  Passage of these bills won’t help balance the budget, but will grow companies like Almost Family, “a leading provider of home health nursing, rehabilitation and personal care services.”

In April, Yarmuth co-sponsored H. Res. 1291: Expressing support for designation of the week beginning May 9, 2010, as National Nursing Home Week.  His constituents don’t have to wonder why their district’s unemployment rate is 10.3%, when this type of fluff is where Yarmuth focuses his time.

Yarmuth also helped vote in H.R. 3962, the Preservation of Access to Care for Medicare Beneficiaries and Pension Relief Act of 2010. This bill, signed into law by President Obama on June 25, blocks cuts to Medicare and gives medical practices a 2.2 percent increase in Medicare reimbursements. Almost Family stockholders like John Yarmuth must be thrilled.

At a town hall meeting in Louisville, when a voter asked Yarmuth how Congress would pay for increased entitlement spending in health care, Yarmuth replied, “I don’t know.” This less-than-brilliant response from the Democrats’ chief communicator went over like a lead balloon.

But Yarmuth does have his own ideas about from where Congress should take the money. While editor of the Louisville Eccentric Observer, Yarmuth wrote extensively about doubling the payroll tax to pay for extending Medicare. Yarmuth believes  that Medicare should be available to everyone living in the United States (he makes no distinction between legal and illegal residents) and that working Americans should pay the bill.

In November, Yarmuth is up for re-election and facing Republican Todd Lally. Many of Kentucky’s political pundits consider Yarmuth’s seat safe because Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 2 to 1, and Yarmuth has a hefty campaign chest.  However, Kentucky Democrats tend to be more moderate than those in places like San Francisco or Berkeley. So Yarmuth’s voting record, which is 99% in accordance with Nancy Pelosi, has left many of his constituents wondering where his loyalties lie.  In a poll just before Kentucky’s primary, about half of likely voters polled said they’d wait to see who was running against Yarmuth before deciding how they will vote. But 28% said they would vote against Yarmuth no matter who runs against him.

What may also prove helpful to Lally’s campaign is an investigation recently launched by the Senate. The Senate Finance Committee is looking into four of the nation’s largest home health care companies, including Almost Family. Analysis by the Wall Street Journal of Medicare payouts to home health care agencies shows these companies may be deliberately gaming the system to get higher Medicare reimbursements. The investigation could shine the spotlight on Yarmuth’s connections to Almost Family, or it could be swept under the rug.