A recent NY Times expose has uncovered long-standing improprieties at a health conglomerate. It appears that since the early 2000s, HCA -- the nation's largest for-profit national chain of 163 facilities in 20 states -- has been responsible for too many unjustifiable cardiac procedures. The concern is that these dangerous procedures are done mostly for profit, and media outlets, governments, and stock traders have voiced their doubts of late.
According to the NY Times article, with up to thousands of stent procedures each year at its hospitals, Medicare pays HCA $10,000 for stents and $3,000 for diagnostic catheterizations. HCA employs 100 catheterization labs, including Lawnwood Regional Medical Center of Fort Pierce, FL, which brings in 35% of HCA profits. The most profitable of their physicians, Dr. Prasad Chalasani, has been characterized as "too quick to perform catheterization," but he has disputed the claims as based on faulty documentation, and he highlights that he is not paid by the hospital
All of these worrying questions would have dissolved had it not been for a 2010 ethics complaint, which has opened yet a new front of scrutiny for HCA, involving internal reviews, memos, and apparent cover-ups.
The trouble is magnified for HCA. In 2000, as part of a $1.7 billion fraud settlement with Medicare, HCA signed a promise for greater disclosure of questionable practices. Recent statements, however, have not provided evidence that HCA acknowledged to patients or public and private insurers the overtreatment we know they have been aware of. Some of the more egregious physicians are still practicing at HCA locations.
HCA denies that its practices are financially-motivated, and cites their internal quality reviews as evidence for their commitment to patient care.
Based on the article, the question I have is, "Patient safety or profit?" You decide.