5 times news outlets prompted hospital investigations, suspensions or charge withdrawals

Mackenzie Bean - Print  | 

Investigative journalism holds great power to make change across all arenas, including healthcare.

While regulatory agencies and accrediting bodies are tasked with monitoring healthcare facilities' compliance with both state and federal policies, some news outlets have been one step ahead, unearthing issues that stimulate regulatory oversight or change.

Here are five stories in which a newspaper report prompted an investigation, suspension or charge withdrawal at a hospital in 2018, starting with the most recent:

1. California hospital reverses $15,666 trauma fee for baby who napped, drank formula in ER
Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital charged a vacationing South Korean family $15,666 after their son, who had experienced a fall, received no critical care but slept and drank formula in the hospital's emergency room. The hospital reversed the charge less than a month after Vox reported on the story in partnership with Kaiser Health News.

2. North Carolina hospital charges man $1,011 after 'free' cancer screening, biopsies
A North Carolina resident visited High Point, N.C.-based Bethany Medical Center for a "free" cancer screening but received a $1,011 bill a month later. The resident, Porter McNairy, contacted WFMY 2 after the facility refused to eliminate the bill in full. About two days after WFMY 2 reached out to the medical center, the facility waived the bill.

3. Houston hospital suspends heart transplants after recent deaths: 7 things to know
Houston-based Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center suspended its heart transplant program for 14 days beginning June 1 after an investigation by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle revealed the hospital's poor heart transplant survival rate.

4. Texas man receives $7,924 surprise bill after going to an in-network ER
Although Scott Kohan underwent surgery for a broken jaw at a Texas hospital in his insurance network, he still ended up with a $7,924.13 bill because the oral surgeon who performed the surgery was out of network. The day after Vox spoke with the physician's office manager, the office contacted Mr. Kohan to inform him the charge was being dropped.

5. WSJ report spurs House oversight of hospital accreditation processes
The House Energy and Commerce Committee in March sought information from CMS and four accreditation agencies, including The Joint Commission, to ensure their accreditation processes for hospitals in the Medicare and Medicaid programs follow federal standards. The oversight was a direct response to a September 2017 article published by The Wall Street Journal that found The Joint Commission rarely revokes its seal of approval when hospitals are not compliant with Medicare regulations.

Ayla Ellison, Morgan Haefner, Emily Rappleye and Alyssa Rege contributed to this article.

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