Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Carmel on the Case: Flu Fight
Tonight a Broward businessman says the state has all but put him out of business - unfairly. He was charged with overcharging for the flu vaccine when it was in short supply last year. But now for the first time ever, he's speaking out... And investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is “on the case.”
Bo Raney says his name is mud ever since the state accused him of price gouging during last year's flu vaccine shortage.
Back then south Floridians were so concerned about getting a flu shot - some waited in line for hours.
Raney's wholesale company - Meds Stat - was buying and then re-selling the vaccine to hospitals.
Bo Raney: "We priced it in accordance with what we had to pay for it."
But the prices he charged led to a lawsuit by the attorney general's office and the public perception that he is guilty of price gouging.
At the time attorney general Charlie Crist warned profiteers would be delt with harshly.
Charlie Crist, Florida Attorney General: "And if anybody tries to overcharge for a flu vaccine to save somebody - uh - we will throw the book at them. In fact, we'll throw the whole library."
And Raney says that's exactly what happened to him.
Raney supplied seven news invoices that show he paid 250 dollars for a
Vial of Fluzone - the flu vaccine - in September of last year.
On October fifth, he also paid 250 dollars per vial.
But the next day on October sixth - he paid 610 dollars a vial... And re-sold it for 900 dollars a vial - and that's when the state took action against him.
Bo Raney: "But I don't believe if you pay 600 for something and sell it for 900 that you're price gouging in any way, shape or form."
Raney also takes issue with the fact the attorney general's news releases report the vaccine normally sold for 63 to 85 dollars a vial - accusing him of a 900 per cent mark up.
Bo Raney: "He filed suit on us without doing any investigation whatsoever."
The attorney general's office declined an on camera interview.
I was allowed to review the case files, but could find no record of Rainy paying the lower prices for the vaccine.
Bo Raney: "Am I afraid of retaliation or retribution for doing what I'm doing? Uh - sure."
Rainy says he's speaking out now for two reasons one - because he has nothing more to lose...and second:
Bo Raney: "To show you that we are not the price gougers that he continues to claim and that we didn't pay 70 dollars - we paid over 600 dollars per vial."
Raney says he settled the suit and agreed to pay more than 200 thousand dollars because it would have cost him more to fight it in court.
Bo Raney: "You sign the agreement under duress. You go up against the government - you're gonna lose."
Dr. Robert Cruz: "It's not surprising in a market economy to see prices increasing rapidly...
Dr. Robert Cruz is an associate professor of economics at Barry University.
He says businesses need to be careful how they pass on price hikes - especially in the medical field.
Dr. Robert Cruz: "You risk the good will of your customers and you invite regulatory oversight."
Raney learned that the hard way.
Bo Raney: "This particular incident will probably collapse us. I don't know how much longer we can hold on.
Carmel Cafiero: "The Attorney General's Office says it considers the case closed with a good resolution and a practice that won't continue. But a lawyer in the office admits a chain of people were boosting prices. However, Bo Raney, is the only one charged."
If there's something you think Carmel should investigate..give her a call:
In Dade it's 305-627-CLUE
In Broward 954-921-CLUE
Or you can e-mail carmel: firstname.lastname@example.org