Carmel, CA HCA Healthcare Subject Of Federal Probeby Richard Kuehn on 08/13/12
HCA Healthcare, the company which was recently in talks to buy Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH) but mysteriously slipped out of the bidding, disclosed this week that it is the subject of a federal probe asking if a number of cardiology procedures given to their patients were medically necessary. The company is the biggest for-profit owner of hospitals in the United States, and the latest news may be a clue as to why HCA dropped out of the bidding to buy SVMH. Investigators are trying to determine whether procedures such as putting in stents and angioplasty to open up clogged arteries were unnecessary and patients could have just been given prescription drugs to avoid the surgery with just as positive an outcome. The hospitals owned by HCA were flagged because of an unusually high volume of these medical procedures. This isn't the first time HCA has come under fire. In 2003, it suspended eight doctors at Cedars Medical Center after it was determined that there was overutilization of cardiology procedures. A report issued in May by the Department of Health and Human Services Officer of the Inspector General said that physicians around the country were billing the government for a higher proportion of the most expensive types of visits. It's a sad state of affairs when reimbursement rates from private insurance companies, Medicare and Medi-Cal have been slashed so dramatically that hospitals try and manipulate the system by doing expensive procedures which may not be necessary.