We're talking about Hospital Corporation of America, a "giant hospital chain" that has 163 medical facilities across the US, according to the New York Times. Remember Tennessee Republican Bill Frist? It's his family's company. It's a corporation hasn't suffered during the recession. No sir! Its profits "have soared." It has investors who've been making out like bandits. And guess what! One of those private equity firms is Bain Capital -- which has ties to the Frist corporation.
HCA’s robust profit growth has raised the value of the firms’ holdings to nearly three and a half times their initial investment in the $33 billion deal. The financial performance has been so impressive that HCA has become a model for the industry. Its success inspired 35 buyouts of hospitals or chains of facilities in the last two and a half years by private equity firms eager to repeat that windfall. ...NYT
So our health has become the latest buy-out that's making private investors rich, really rich. No wonder they don't like the Affordable Care Act. Affordable and care are strictly forbidden in their code. Better plan: skimp at the doctor/patient end of the equation.
Among the secrets to HCA’s success: It figured out how to get more revenue from private insurance companies, patients and Medicare by billing much more aggressively for its services than ever before; it found ways to reduce emergency room overcrowding and expenses; and it experimented with ways to reduce the cost of medical staff, a move that sometimes led to conflicts with doctors and nurses over concerns about patient care. ...NYT
Compassion isn't part of the deal.
HCA decided not to treat patients who came in with nonurgent conditions, like a cold or the flu or even a sprained wrist, unless those patients paid in advance. ...NYT
Staff (including doctors) were persuaded that the hospital business is a for-profit business, not a care business.
Several nurses interviewed said they were concerned that the system sometimes had led to inadequate staffing in important areas like critical care. ...NYT
And profits there were -- over the top. And often fines for poor care. The former were enormous; the latter piddling. Some of their care has been fine, and HCA has invested in improving their facilities. Nonetheless, they are now "under scrutiny" by the Department of Justice.
Lotsa luck to the Department of Justice. When you check out the details of HCA's bizness, it turns out to be just another story about the kind of people you don't want anywhere near your doctor, your family, our endangered democracy or even, frankly, America.