HMA: "60 Minutes" Report Relied on Disgruntled Former Employees

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Last night, "60 Minutes" aired a segment that focused on alleged emergency department practices at hospitals owned by Health Management Associates, and executives at the Naples, Fla.-based for-profit hospital operator said the report "relied entirely on disgruntled former employees," some of whom are involved in litigation with Health Management.

Health Management AssociatesOn Friday, Health Management executives held a conference call to defend its inpatient admissions from EDs at its hospitals, saying all admissions are "in line with industry norms."

"60 Minutes" interviewed more than 100 current and former employees over the past year for its segment. Reporter Steve Kroft had five former Health Management employees speak on-camera: Nancy Alford, former director of case management at Dallas Regional Medical Center in Mesquite, Texas; Cliff Cloonan, MD, and Scott Rankin, MD, emergency medicine physicians who worked at Carlisle (Pa.) Regional Medical Center; Jeff Hamby, MD, former emergency medicine physician at Summit Medical Center in Van Buren, Ark.; and Paul Meyer, former director of compliance for the organization.

Each person alleged they saw some type of inappropriate activity at their respective hospitals, including inaccurate billing to Medicare and Medicaid and inpatient admissions quotas placed on ED physicians.

Dr. Cloonan said his department chief said 20 percent of the hospital's patients will have to be admitted, or "somebody's going to get fired." All five interviewees reiterated they believed hospital administrators and corporate-level executives had admissions targets and enforced other pressures because "money was the chief motivator," according to "60 Minutes."

Mr. Meyer, also a former employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, told "60 Minutes" he believed the for-profit chain intentionally committed Medicare fraud for hospital stays that "did not meet government standards for admission or reimbursement."

Health Management CEO Gary Newsome was not interviewed in the "60 Minutes" piece, and instead, Senior Vice President and Florida Group President Alan Levine spoke on the company's behalf. He said the allegations from the former employees are "absolutely wrong," that Health Management never sets quotas for hospital admissions and that Mr. Meyer's assertions of Medicare fraud "were not accurate." Mr. Levine also spoke on the conference call Friday, saying Health Management provided "60 Minutes" with data that showed average inpatient admissions from the company's EDs since January 2008, "which track national norms."

In its official statement, Health Management went on to say that "60 Minutes" found no issues with care quality at any of its hospitals, and it also "failed identify a single patient who had been inappropriately admitted from any of the company's emergency rooms, including by the physicians interviewed."

"Health Management enables America's best local healthcare by providing the people, processes, capital and expertise necessary for its hospital and physician partners to fulfill their local missions of delivering superior healthcare services," its statement ended.

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