Study: Three pro-Insure Tennessee hospitals gouged the uninsured


June 18, 2015 10:42AM

I blogged in February, as we prepared to enter the special session of the legislature convened by Gov. Haslam to debate Insure Tennessee- his proposed expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare- that we should look very carefully at the hospitals who claim they could be trusted not to pass along the costs for their portion of the deal to vulnerable patients.

This morning, Chris Butler at Tennessee Watchdog released the following story that exposes why these big-name Tennessee hospitals who backed Insure Tennessee were among the worst abusers.

This piece by Chris Butler was originally published on Tennessee Watchdog.

NASHVILLE — Community Health Systems, which has pushed expanded Medicaid in Tennessee, overcharged the uninsured by as much as 10 times what they should have says a new study.

The study, first published in the Washington Post, identified Regional Hospital of Jackson, Lakeway Regional Hospital of Morristown and Dyersburg Regional Medical Center as among 50 hospitals nationwide that allegedly gouged uninsured patients. All three are part of CHS.

Representatives from the three Tennessee hospitals did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

The Brentwood-based CHS, which has 199 hospitals in 29 states, according to its website, did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Post’s study reports that half of the 50 hospitals on the list are affiliated with CHS, in such states as Alabama, Florida and Virginia.

According to various media accounts, CHS officials were allegedly so upset with the Tennessee Legislature’s failure to expand Medicaid under Obamacare this year they discontinued plans to expand operations in Williamson County.

CHS officials, according to the Nashville Business Journal, could have been retaliating against Williamson County legislators who opposed Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed expansion of Medicaid, also known as Insure Tennessee.

According to the Nashville Banner, CHS was a part of the Coalition For A Healthy Tennessee’s unsuccessful lobbying efforts to pass the proposed law.

Coalition spokesman Joe Hall referred all questions on the matter to the Tennessee Hospital Association, which also lobbied for the bill.

THA spokesman Joe Burchfield said the three hospitals in Jackson, Morristown and Dyersburg were not affiliated with his organization.

The Post identified the Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America as having 14 hospitals that also overcharged the uninsured, although none were in Tennessee. HCA, according to the Banner, was also involved in efforts to expand Medicaid in Tennessee.

Officials with CHA, HCA and other health-care corporations whose hospitals made the list reportedly told the newspaper they offer large discounts to uninsured people.

HCA spokesman Ed Fishbough said Wednesday the amount patients pay for hospital services is more strongly tied to the types of coverage they have.

“Government programs like Medicare and Medicaid determine how much they reimburse hospitals, and insurance plans negotiate rates,” Fishbough said. 

The Post said CHS did not own several of the hospitals that made the list at the time the study was done, but didn’t specify which ones or when the report was completed.