CASH-ON-DEMAND EPIDURALS: State, Feds Widen Investigation
Upon revelations that Northridge Hospital Medical Center denied epidurals to Medi-Cal women in labor unless they paid cash upfront, the federal government yesterday began a "sweeping audit of the hospital's practices and records." The Los Angeles Times reports that the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration's "validation survey" will give officials an "intensive" look at Northridge's practices. "Since first learning of this we have been looking into it to make sure (Medicaid and Medi-Cal) beneficiaries get the services they need," said HCFA spokesperson Chris Peacock.
At the local level, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors yesterday "voted to ask state regulators" for a "widened probe" of all county anesthesiologists and hospitals accepting Medi-Cal patients. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky called for further investigations because he said he had a "smoking gun" proving hospital officials bluffed in saying doctors charged cash for epidurals "because they thought Medi-Cal did not cover them." The Times reports that Yaroslavsky presented the board with one woman's receipt for a epidural paid in cash, "proof, [he] said, that the anesthesiologists were not denying the procedure because it was not covered by Medi-Cal, but because they simply chose not to provide such a service to Medi-Cal patients." But Northridge spokesperson John Lockhart responded that the woman's case occurred before the hospital changed its cash-up-front policy, and that there were no attempts to deny her an epidural (Bernstein, 7/8).