Assembly Health Committee Plans To Investigate Billing Practices of Tenet, Other For-Profit Hospital Chains
The Assembly Health Committee in January will launch an investigation into whether Tenet and other California-based for-profit hospital chains charged the state "too much" for prescription drugs and services, committee Chair Dario Frommer (D-Los Feliz) said yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to Frommer, lawmakers will ask Tenet officials to testify before the committee and provide records and price schedules (Los Angeles Times, 12/5). "When you have a $20 billion budget deficit, you have to make every penny count. We cannot be paying more than necessary for health care," Frommer said (Brice, AP/Contra Costa Times, 12/5). The committee will investigate allegations that Tenet hospitals on average charge 63% more for services than other facilities in California and that Tenet increased charges as much as 31% in 1999 and raised prescription drug prices more than elevenfold at some hospitals (Los Angeles Times, 12/5). Tenet's billing practices have come under scrutiny after company officials announced early last month that the HHS Office of Inspector General will audit the company's hospitals to determine whether Tenet properly billed Medicare for outlier payments, which reimburse for unusually costly care (California Healthline, 11/7). Tenet spokesperson Harry Anderson questioned the planned committee investigation. "We are talking about a list price that nobody pays. We have acknowledged that our list prices did increase and in some cases were higher. However, the simple realistic fact is that nobody pays those prices, so why are we talking about them?" Anderson said (Los Angeles Times, 12/5). Tenet spokesperson Steven Campanini said that the company will cooperate with the investigation (AP/Contra Costa Times, 12/5). Frommer said that the committee would share the results of the investigation with Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D); he did not name other hospital chains that the committee plans to investigate (Los Angeles Times, 12/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.