False billing scheme hinders reopening of several Tennessee hospitals

Tennessee hospitals and staff are still recovering from a failed billing scheme that has caused several hospitals to close, and disputed payments may keep them from reopening any time soon, according to a July 18 report from NPR affiliate WPLN

Following several instances of false lab billing, numerous Tennessee hospitals, such as Perry Community Hospital in Linden, Tenn., closed down. There has been interest in reopening some of these locations, but new owners have been deterred due to debts owed by previous owners to insurance companies. 

The most prominent case against Perry Community Hospital comes from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, which claims the hospital overcharged for lab tests and owes the payer $5 million. 

Some former staffers believe Florida-based owners are to blame for these billing discrepancies affecting Tennessee hospitals.

"We did a lot of drug screens out of Florida," said Michael Perkinson, a former Perry Community Hospital lab technician. "Thus the problem."  

An audit from BCBS found the hospital was charging higher rural hospital inpatient rates for services provided to patients who had never been at the hospital. 

"Another Florida lab company snapped up three hospitals in East Tennessee — two of which are now closed," according to radio station. "In 18 rural hospitals across the Midwest, Florida businessman Jorge Perez was just convicted in a $1.4 billion fraud related to lab billing. Eight of those hospitals shut down."

Linden Mayor Wess Ward shared with WPLN that 120 jobs are being affected by these closures in the community. 

In late April, potential buyers from New Jersey for Perry Community Hospital said they were "on track to take over this summer." The investors are also in the lab testing business, according to the publication.

Mr. Ward said he has more confidence this time around, since the investment group includes physicians, but will monitor the hospital more closely going forward.

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