HCA Posts Strong Profits at California Hospitals Amid Federal Scrutiny
HCA Holdings, which is being reviewed by federal officials for allegedly performing unnecessary surgeries and other medical procedures on some Florida patients, has posted strong profits for its three Southern California hospitals in recent years, the Los Angeles Times' "Money & Co." reports.
HCA has 163 hospitals and 110 surgery centers in the U.S. (Terhune, "Money & Co.," Los Angeles Times, 8/7).
According to the New York Times, an internal investigation of several HCA hospitals made public Monday found that cardiologists performed unnecessary and sometimes dangerous heart procedures between 2002 and 2010.
The probe -- prompted by a complaint from a nurse who subsequently was fired -- also found that the doctors sometimes made misleading statements in medical records to justify the treatments.
The investigation did not determine how many unnecessary procedures were conducted or whether patients died or were injured as a result. However, it found that the procedures increased costs for patients and profits for HCA (Abelson/Creswell, New York Times, 8/6).
HCA officials said the Department of Justice has indicated it will review billing and medical records for cardiac procedures at 95 of the group's hospitals (AP/Los Angeles Times, 8/7).
On Monday, HCA posted a letter on its website defending the company's practices ahead of publication of the New York Times article.
The statement cites the "difficulty in determining the medical necessity of these procedures," which depend on individual doctors' judgment (Wilde Mathews/Weaver, Wall Street Journal, 8/6).
Details of Profits at HCA's California Hospitals
In Southern California, HCA operates:
- Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks;
- Riverside Community Hospital; and
- West Hills Hospital and Medical Center.
According to state records, Riverside had an operating profit margin of 13% last year, while in 2010 Los Robles had a 14% operating margin and West Hills had an 11% operating margin.
The average operating margin for California hospitals was 3.4% at the end of 2011, according to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.An HCA spokesperson declined to comment on whether any of the group's California hospitals are subject to the federal inquiry ("Money & Co.," Los Angeles Times, 8/7). 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.