Records Seized from Tenet’s Alvarado Hospital Medical Center in Kickback Investigation
Federal agents yesterday raided the executive offices of Tenet Healthcare-owned Alvarado Hospital Medical Center in San Diego, seizing "voluminous records" as part of a probe into alleged violations of antikickback statutes, the Los Angeles Times reports. Ten agents from the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego, the Internal Revenue Service and HHS served search warrants covering Alvarado Hospital Medical Center's relocation agreements and consulting agreements with doctors (White, Los Angeles Times, 12/20). The warrants also covered records relating to hospital executives' compensation, Alvarado and Tenet bank records and the "strategies and/or plans for increasing patient admissions, outpatient services and/or laboratory services for any Tenet [hospital]," the Wall Street Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 12/20). It is illegal for hospitals to pay "or otherwise induce" doctors to refer patients whose care is funded by taxpayers to their hospitals, according to the New York Times. Tenet officials said they did not believe the raid was related to any other government probes (Abelson/Pollack, New York Times, 12/20).
In related news, Tenet and the Justice Department "remain far apart" on a settlement over the company's high Medicare outlier payments despite a recent meeting between company officials and DOJ representatives, Dow Jones News Service reports. Tenet CEO and Chair Jeffrey Barbakow wrote in a letter to shareholders on Thursday that the issues discussed at the meeting involved the billing practices for four conditions -- pneumonia, operating-room procedures for infectious and parasitic diseases, septicemia and respiratory system diagnosis with mechanical ventilator -- between September 1992 and December 1998 in hospitals now owned by Tenet. Company officials said that National Medical Enterprises, American Medical International, OrNda HealthCorp and other "independent, not-for-profit" companies owned the hospitals during the period in question, Dow Jones reports. According to Tenet officials, the company "remains hopeful" that a settlement with the DOJ can be reached but is "prepared to go to trial if necessary," Dow Jones reports. In addition to the DOJ inquiry, Tenet is being audited by HHS' Office of Audit Services over "outsized" outlier payments, which reimburse for unusually expensive care, Dow Jones reports. The OAS will finish its first audit this week and then begin auditing other Tenet hospitals, a process expected to take months, according to Tenet officials (Reynolds, Dow Jones News Service, 12/19).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.