Universal Health Care workers have big worries and new hassles

7:44 PM, Apr 1, 2013   |    comments
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Universal Health Care workers stand outside their building as FBI agents raid their office on March 28.
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- Their faces may be different, but hundreds of Universal Health Care workers, now out of a job, have the same worries.

"Now I'm laid off," says Kerry Berard of Clearwater. "I have two children to support, a house, a car payment."

"It's been tough," says Ingrid Gutierrez, outside the company's St. Petersburg headquarters. "I have three kids, I've been here for seven years and I have to start all over again."

A series of recent events has rocked the company and its workers. First a bankruptcy and liquidation and then last Thursday, the FBI and investigators from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services raided the place executing search warrants.

The Feds won't provide details, but the office involved fights fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid programs.

SEE ALSO: Universal Health's CEO has huge political pull

"We didn't see this coming," says worker Darrel Davis. "This is like a haymaker in the 10th round."

On Monday morning as instructed, Universal workers came to the office building on Central Avenue to return their ID badges and retrieve personal belongings, but even that didn't go smoothly. 

Many people were told to come back later in the day or on Tuesday For workers, it was just one more frustration.

"It irritates the hell out of me," said Susan Ortiz of St. Pete. 

"I'm disgusted, disgusted by this company and the people who were running it and what they've done to all of us," said Kristin Scott, who had driven from Clearwater, only to be turned away by armed guards at the door.

However, some workers were allowed to retrieve personal items. Christina Benjamin carried out birthday balloons, a reminder of happier times.

And even as Brian Fisher left with termination papers in hand, his thoughts turned to his clients. Thousands of Universal customers were left scrambling to find new coverage.

Universal Health Care customers: "We feel betrayed, lied to"

"I'm so sorry for what happened to our elderly," Fisher said -- his voice breaking with emotion. "It's so unfair and whoever's responsible for this needs to be punished, because those people did not deserve this."

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