Lawmakers Support Hospital Penalties for ‘Patient Dumping’
The Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday approved a revised version of a bill (SB 275) that would penalize hospitals for discharging patients to a location other than their residences without informed consent, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 6/27).
The legislation by Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) was prompted by allegations of patient dumping in the Skid Row neighborhood of Los Angeles. Authorities in recent years have recorded 55 patient dumping incidents in Skid Row (California Healthline, 6/26).
Under the original measure, hospital administrators could have been subject to a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and up to one year in jail. Hospitals also would have faced a fine of up to $10,000.
Cedillo agreed to change the penalties, however, after lawmakers and hospital officials voiced concerns that criminalizing patient dumping after one offense could lead hospitals to be barred from participating in Medicare and Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program. Losing that funding could force some hospitals to close, critics said.
Cedillo contends that there is no documented evidence that any hospital has closed after being charged with a misdemeanor.
Under the revised bill:
- A first violation would be an administrative violation subject to a $100,000 fine against the hospital;
- A second violation would be prosecuted in court as a civil violation subject to a $250,000 fine against the hospital; and
- A third violation would charge hospital officials with a misdemeanor and a fine for the hospitals of up to $500,000 (Sacramento Bee, 6/27).
If approved by the full Assembly, the measure would have to be reconciled with the version of the legislation approved by the Senate before it could be forwarded to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) for consideration.
The Los Angeles city attorney's office on Tuesday filed civil complaints accusing two hospitals and a transportation services firm of intentionally dumping homeless patients in Skid Row, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The complaints were filed against:
- Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Feliz;
- Methodist Hospital in Arcadia; and
- Empire Enterprises.
The complaints are related to four separate incidents over a 14-month period. In all four cases, the patient was dropped off "without any plan for appropriate medical care and other necessary ancillary services," according to the complaints.
Rocky Delgadillo, city attorney, is using a state law regarding unfair business practices to try to prosecute the hospitals. Empire Enterprises has been named as a co-conspirator in the complaints.
The complaints seek fines against the hospitals and a judge's order to outlaw patient dumping (DiMassa/Winton, Los Angeles Times, 6/27). 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.