Is Prime Healthcare Starving Its Medicare Patients?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Lex Reddy, CEO of Prime Healthcare
Under investigation by state and federal officials, Prime Healthcare Services is operating hospitals in California that have patients with unusually high rates of malnutrition that usually is found only among starving children in developing countries.
At the company’s Shasta Regional Medical Center in Redding, 16.1% of the Medicare patients 65 and older in 2009 suffered from a particular type of malnutrition known as kwashiorkor. This rate is 70 times higher than the state average of 0.2%, according to the investigative website California Watch.
At its Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville, the rate of kwashiorkor among Medicare patients was 9.1%, or about 39 times the state average.
State and federal investigations are already probing the work of Prime for allegedly overbilling the Medicare system by millions of dollars in connection with a reported outbreak of septicemia infections.
Like those suffering from kwashiorkor, patients with septicemia infections can earn hospitals bonuses from the U.S. government.
The investigation by California Watch also found Prime reported in 2009 that 25% of its Medicare patients were malnourished, a diagnosis that also can entitle a hospital to a reimbursement bonus from the government. The state average for hospitalized seniors suffering from malnutrition was 7.5%.
In addition, it was discovered that of the 10 California hospitals reporting the highest malnutrition rates among Medicare patients, eight—including the top four—were owned by Prime.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Hospital Chain, Already Under Scrutiny, Reports High Malnutrition Rates (by Lance Williams, Christina Jewett and Stephen K. Doig, California Watch)


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