HCA Helping Profits, Not Patients

A recent New York Times article suggests that the unlikely financial success of Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) over the last six years of economic turmoil may be attributed to a culture of prioritizing profits over patients. According to the article, HCA’s gains have grown steadily since 2006, the year three private equity firms, including Bain Capital, acquired the hospital chain and turned it into a for-profit business. By 2012, the value of the firms’ holdings had increased almost three-and-a-half times their initial investments, despite the financial difficulties plaguing the large majority of hospitals around the country. While HCA has since become an industry model to emulate for its unmitigated profitability in the past half decade, many have raised an eyebrow at the health care giant’s peculiar success, especially given the chilly economic climate under which it prospered.

Those skeptical of the HCA model have almost uniformly cited its for-profit status as the main source of their misgivings. More specifically, questions have been raised as to whether the measures HCA has taken to cut costs and increase revenue—measures designed primarily to appease investors and shareholders—have come at the expense of patients. Critics have become especially emboldened by reports of HCA’s unorthodox money saving practices, such as changing its billing code for emergency room patients to reap higher levels of Medicare, turning away patients with “non-urgent conditions” that in some cases have proved symptomatic of more serious ailments, and establishing a flexible staffing system that, in theory, allows a predicted number of patients to be matched with the necessary number of staff members. The latter practice has allegedly caused numerous rifts between nurses and doctors about understaffing and the quality of treatment being provided.

“If you were a for-profit hospital with investors and shareholders, there would be a natural tendency to be more aggressive and to seek more revenues,” one former nonprofit hospital executive with no ties to HCA told The Times. He went on to argue that for-profit hospitals are “judged in greater measure by profitability” than nonprofit hospitals.

But perhaps the most troubling way in which HCA is alleged to have increased revenue involves misleading patients without heart disease or serious blockages into believing that they require cardiac catheterization or coronary stent placements.

By allegedly performing these more invasive operations for no other reason than to increase HCA’s bottom line, patients are put at an increased risk of contracting infections and developing other complications, not to mention that a foreign object is forever implanted in their artery walls. Individuals who suspect that they may have needlessly underwent a coronary catheterization or stent procedure may have a claim for damages, and should contact a Morgan and Morgan attorney as soon as possible by filling out our free no-risk case review form today.