Doctors Medical Center CEO Sues Blue Cross of California for Defamation
Tim Joslin, CEO of Modesto-based Doctors Medical Center, on Monday filed suit in Stanislaus County Superior Court against Blue Cross of California, accusing the insurer of libel and defamation, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/3). Joslin alleges that Blue Cross "defamed the hospital, its employees and the doctors who practice there" through a "widely published" study that claimed that "unnecessary heart surgeries were done at the hospital" (Carlson, Modesto Bee, 12/3). In October, Blue Cross released a review that said the hospital billed it for multiple medically unnecessary coronary bypass procedures (California Healthline, 11/5). Blue Cross stopped authorizing payment for procedures at the hospital but later reinstated its authorization after Doctors took "steps to tighten its internal oversight" (California Healthline, 11/24). In his lawsuit, Joslin said that even though Blue Cross reinstated the payments, "the damage had already been done," adding that hospital admissions immediately dropped by 20% and referring physicians are considering leaving Doctors, according to the Chronicle (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/3). Joslin's lawsuit, which was filed on his own behalf and not on the behalf of Doctors or Tenet Healthcare, which owns Doctors, alleges that the study is flawed because it is based on "outdated criteria" for determining when bypass surgery is an appropriate treatment, according to the Bee (Modesto Bee, 12/3). According to the lawsuit, giving the study to the media was "vile, base, despicable, willful, wanton, malicious and oppressive," the Chronicle reports. In addition to Blue Cross, the suit names Blue Cross parent company WellPoint Health Networks and Health Benchmarks, which conducted the study, as defendants (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/3). The suit seeks unspecified damages. George Arata, Joslin's attorney, said he will "strive for a sizable monetary judgement," the Bee reports (Modesto Bee, 12/3). Blue Cross spokesperson Michael Chee said that although he has not seen the suit, the company stands by the results of the study (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/3). Steve Campanini, a spokesperson for Tenet, said the hospital and the company are not involved in Joslin's suit and that Tenet has "resolved the issue with Blue Cross" (Wolfson/Knap, Orange County Register, 12/3).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.