Hospitals Crying Wolf While Shaking Down Taxpayers


January 22, 2015 3:24PM

In just over a week, the Tennessee legislature will convene a special session to debate Gov. Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” plan, a proposed Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. The Tennessee Hospital Association, which has lobbied for an expansion for years by claiming that rural hospitals would be forced to close their doors without the additional federal dollars, has begun a costly propaganda campaign to pressure legislators into supporting the governor’s plan. But of course, we should be skeptical at best when hospital executives talk to patients and taxpayers. Here are just a few examples of why they can’t be trusted:

  • Hospitals across the country have been artificially lining their own pockets by scamming low-income patients out of their discounted prescription drugs using a federally funded program called 340B. Data on the operations of Tennessee hospitals show they are among the worst offenders. Read why here.
  • Erlanger hospital system in Chattanooga, a huge proponent of Medicaid expansion as a form of a bailout for supposedly struggling hospitals, dished $1.7 million in bonuses to its top management for financial performances at the end of 2014. Read about the scandal here.
  • HCA (Hospital Centers of America, and now “TriStar”), which was founded in Nashville and has expanded nationally, is the culprit of the largest fraud case in Medicare history. “The company seemed more organized-crime outfit than health-care provider…billing for tests that weren’t necessary or ordered; submitted false diagnoses to increase reimbursements, paid kickbacks to doctors for patient referrals and billed for home visits that people didn’t qualify for or receive.” Again—all to pad their bottom line. They settled with the feds for $2 billion. Read about it here.
  • And in developing news, nonprofit hospitals are allegedly seizing the wages of lower-income and working-class patients. Now, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says these hospitals “could be breaking the law by suing these patients and docking their pay…” Further, “Grassley says the ACA requires that hospitals take the initiative to determine whether patients qualify for financial aid. The hospital is not supposed to shift that burden onto the patients.” And yet, that’s exactly what some are doing. Read about it here.

And so these stories beg the question: Can Tennesseans trust the million-dollar executives and lobbying arms of the hospitals when they promise us that they’ll not shift their financial costs associated with “Insure Tennessee” along to patients and taxpayers? Think about it. -Lindsay Boyd