COLUMBIA: Asset Sales Concern Consumer Groups
Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.'s plan to spin off a significant proportion of its holdings nationwide has some consumer groups alarmed. Last Friday, Consumers Union and Community Catalyst sent a letter to the attorneys general of states where Columbia plans to get rid of a third of its hospitals, asking them to closely review these transactions. "Our concerns focus on a number of issues, namely, whether services will remain intact, whether access to quality health care will be affected, and indeed, whether certain hospitals will close," the letter states. More specifically, the letter asks the attorneys general to investigate whether any of the formerly nonprofit hospitals up for sale may have been undervalued when Columbia bought them. On this, the letter states: "We believe that a key role of attorneys general is the preservation of charitable assets. We therefore ask you to use whatever legal tools you have at your disposal to 'look back' at transactions in your jurisdiction and review them for the purpose of recapturing nonprofit assets that may have been lost in their original conversion. We also ask you to look at these proposed Columbia sales for the potentially adverse impact they may have on the availability and accessibility of health care in your state." The letter went to 21 attorneys general in all, including California AG Dan Lungren (R) (Consumers Union release, 6/30).
Surgery Centers Sale Complete
Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. announced yesterday that it completed the sale of 33 ambulatory surgery centers to Birmingham, AL-based HealthSouth Corp. for $500 million in cash. The sale of a 34th center is awaiting approval by Columbia minority partners (Columbia release, 7/1).