A Denver-area hospital nearly lost its Medicare funding last month after staffers allegedly steered away several emergency room patients without proper insurance coverage.
But HCFA withdrew its threat against 200-bed Columbia/North Suburban Medical Center in Thornton, Colo., after determining the hospital had fixed the problem.
"The hospital acknowledged the problem very quickly and moved to correct the situation," said Mary Kay Smith, the agency's regional administrator.
Mark Brenzel, chief operating officer for Columbia's Colorado division, said the hospital did not refer or transfer any patient on the basis of whether they could pay their emergency room bill. He also said none of the patients was suffering from a serious or life-threatening injury.
Federal officials began an investigation at the hospital about three months ago after patients complained.
At least 58% of the hospital's annual revenues of almost $80 million are derived through Medicare and Medicaid.
Hospitals, under federal "anti-dumping" laws, are forbidden from refusing or delaying treatment to emergency room patients who cannot afford to pay. Patients are supposed to get at least a screening examination. According to a sampling of North Suburban's log books, the hospital failed to provide that screening in 16 of 36 cases.