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AHCS – what’s NOT in the suit

A couple days ago my evening was interrupted by a call from a reporter, who wanted my comment on ‘the suit’. I had to confess I didn’t know what he was talking about, whereupon he somewhat incredulously asked if I hadn’t seen ‘it’.
I said I didn’t know what ‘it’ was, whereupon he proceeded to tell me that he had just got off the phone with Ron Sachs, who evidently was hired to do PR for Automated Healthcare Solutions. (Later, after other, similar calls, I learned that Sachs had evidently been hitting the phone pretty hard, informing all about the suit that AHCS had filed naming me and my consulting firm, Health Strategy Associates LLC, as defendants.)
By the way, Ron Sachs Communications’ website has this to say: “Sachs also distinguished himself by serving as former Florida Governor Lawton Chiles’ Director of Communications. The deeply experienced senior management team includes two communications directors to two governors (Bush and Chiles), a seven-time Emmy Award-winning producer, a former Senate staff director, and communications directors to state agencies, the Cabinet and a Senate President…Serving clients with 25 full-time professionals and offices in Tallahassee and Orlando”
Pretty impressive resumes, AND Mr Sachs has 24 times more staff than I do, and that’s just the PR firm…
Now, I still haven’t been ‘served’, but I’ve been informed that the suit charges me with a variety of offenses related to my blog posts of September 2 and 9. And I do know that the AHCS folks are plenty mad, and have lots of money – my guess is Ron Sachs doesn’t come cheap.
Here’s a bit of history. AHCS sent me a letter and email a week or so ago calling me out on a number of issues related to the afore-mentioned posts. Here’s a bit of what I wrote back:
“…I’m only too happy to publicly acknowledge and correct any errors in the two posts. In the six years I have been writing MCM, I’ve worked hard to establish and maintain a reputation for veracity; on occasion that effort has required a correction and I’ve been more than willing to write one. I’d note that in the past I’ve left my mistakes on the blog as I believe it’s important for readers to be able to see the entire span of my work, warts and all. Happy to discuss this further as the situation dictates.”
I then went on to address each of their issues point by point, again offering to review any materials and correct and apologize for any errors,
Apparently that good-faith offer wasn’t good enough, as they spent loads of time last weekend hitting my blog, then filed what I understand is a 21-page charge in Federal District Court on Monday. In fact, AHCS still hasn’t responded to my letter – Perhaps they were going to file no matter what I said…
The main point in the suit appears to revolve around my characterization of AHCS as a ‘repackager’. According to AHCS, they are NOT a repackager, but a healthcare IT company. My mistake; from reading their website they sure sounded like a repackager to me. I’ll discuss this in more detail in a later post.
What I want to talk about now is what ISN’T in the suit, and why that’s important.
There were at least two statements in the letter that evidently aren’t in the suit.
One involved a statement questioning Paul Zimmerman MD’s claim to have been a Medical Director for several firms. In the letter, they demanded I retract that statement; that demand evidently isn’t in the suit itself.
My guess – and this is only a guess – is Zimmerman et al decided they couldn’t prove that he was a ‘Medical Director’. However, as of today, their site still says:
“Dr. Zimmerman is considered an expert in workers’ compensation who has served as medical director for a number of workers’ compensation insurers, third party administrators, and self-funded employer programs including Liberty Mutual, The Home Depot, Pan American Airlines, Baxter Healthcare and Sears.”
What’s my point? AHCS’ letter was pretty, well, demanding. Strident. Threatening – really threatening. It also didn’t include any documentation, materials, or evidence supporting these claims. AHCS was demanding I retract my posts on the basis of nothing more than their say-so. Then, when they decided to file charges in Federal Court, they didn’t include their assertions that Zimmerman was a ‘Medical Director’ at Sears, Liberty, Baxter, etc.
Why? Was this an error or oversight? Highly doubtful.
Next, the letter said that Zimmerman had sued Dr Richard Dolsey (since deceased) for slander and won. That claim is apparently not contained in the suit either. I could not find any record in the Miami-Dade or Broward court records of Zimmerman suing Dolsey for slander (I’m not a legal researcher, so perhaps it’s in there somewhere). Again, in my letter I asked AHCS for documentation; I’m still waiting.
And my point is…?
AHCS attempted to bully me into retracting my statements on the basis of nothing more than their say-so. When I offered to review any materials they’d provide, retract any statements in error and apologize publicly, they ignored my letter and filed suit.
I find this, well, weird. Here they had the opportunity to get me to publicly acknowledge errors, publish a retraction, and apologize for those errors, yet they decided to hire Ron Sachs and a high-powered law firm to file suit against me. If they had provided that documentation, and we had a chance to discuss their issues, this might well have been a post of apology and correction, which would have resolved the entire issue in a couple of weeks at zero expense.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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