Nearly 150 hospitals were cited by the federal government for illegally "dumping" patients during the year ended March 31, 1995, but none were kicked out of the Medicare program, a Washington-based consumer group said last week.
The study, based on HHS records, found 152 cases of patient dumping by 144 hospitals. Of the 144 hospitals named, 17 also were cited for violations before April 1, 1994, according to the consumer group, Public Citizen.
Lauren Dame, a staff attorney at Public Citizen, said the number of hospitals cited by HHS for patient dumping, or transferring medically unstable patients to other hospitals for economic reasons, remained fairly constant since the group's first report was issued in 1991. However, because of changes in reporting periods, no comparable data for the previous year was available.
Of the more than 500 hospitals cited for violations since the anti-dumping law took effect in 1986, only nine have been terminated from the Medicare program and 32 have been fined.
According to the report, 10 hospitals paid fines in 1994 for complaints that occurred from 1990 to 1992. Penalties ranged from a $40,000 fine paid by Williamson (Ky.) Appalachian Regional Hospital to a $10,000 judgment against Ridgecrest Hospital in Clayton, Ga. No hospitals were removed from Medicare in 1994, Public Citizen said.
A new law requiring hospitals to report to HHS any time the hospital receives a patient in unstable condition was supposed to take effect in July 1994, but enforcement was held up by the Clinton administration until September 1995.