May 19, 2013
Hospitals Performed Unnecessary Heart Procedures
Posted on Aug 7, 2012
Internal inquiries have revealed that cardiologists at several hospitals operated by HCA, the United States’ largest for-profit hospital chain, performed unnecessary and potentially dangerous heart procedures, and made misleading statements in medical reports to make it appear the measures were needed.
Those procedures include cardiac catheterization, the insertion of a tube used to transport dye that is used to detect irregularities in arteries or the heart on an X-ray, and the placement of cardiac stents, steel mesh covered balloons that expand the walls of an artery when inflated.
The corporation denies the doctors’ decisions were motivated by a desire to make more money, but instead “demonstrate the strong focus we have on quality patient care.” Cardiology is a lucrative business, however. Medicare reimburses hospitals $10,000 for each cardiac stent and $3,000 per diagnostic catheterization. In 2000, HCA reached one of a number of settlements with the Justice Department involving Medicare fraud—billing for unnecessary procedures—that eventually came to $1.7 billion in fines and payments. The likelihood of such misbehavior—disregard for patient well-being for the sake of making money—increases when health care is capitalized.
None of the internal documents reviewed in the investigation disclosed the number of procedures or how many patients might have died or been injured as a result.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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