The seven largest publicly traded for-profit hospital companies had quality scores close to the average for all U.S. hospitals, according to an analysis of CMS Hospital Compare data by Morgan Stanley & Co. Triad Hospitals achieved the highest overall score among the companies at 79.6%. It was followed by Tenet Healthcare Corp. at 79.5% and HCA at 78%. The other scores were 75.1% at Health Management Associates, 74% at LifePoint Hospitals and 73.2% at both Universal Health Services and Community Health Systems. The U.S. average was 75%. In its report, Morgan Stanley said having average quality scores may be a challenge for hospital operators as government and private payers increasingly adopt pay-for-performance contracts, but improving their quality scores could allow for-profit companies to seize volume from local competitors. The analysis aggregated the scores from all of a company's hospitals on 15 of 20 quality metrics into a single score representing the overall percentage of recommended practices the hospitals used.
Wuesthoff sues Health First
Wuesthoff Health System, Rockledge, Fla., filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against Health First, Melbourne, Fla., seeking a court order to undo the 10-year-old merger that created Health First. The suit in U.S. District Court, Orlando, Fla., is another step in a long and bitter rivalry that includes a previous antitrust suit and three certificate-of-need battles. Wuesthoff operates two hospitals. Health First has three and an HMO. According to Wuesthoff, Health First obtained illegal market power in the 1995 merger of two hospitals in Melbourne and Cocoa Beach, Fla. "Forcing a divestment would restore competition," said William Kopit, an attorney for Wuesthoff at the Washington office of Epstein, Becker & Green. Wuesthoff also alleges that Health First illegally required managed-care plans to contract with both of the hospitals and exclude Wuesthoff; required physicians to admit at least 50% of their patients to Health First hospitals; and offered preferential pricing in its HMO. Jerry Senne, Health First's senior vice president of business development, said the lawsuit's "baseless claim will be rejected by courts. This lawsuit by the Wuesthoff board of directors is an unfortunate act by a corporation that is more concerned with protecting its bottom line than meeting the healthcare needs of Brevard County residents." Wuesthoff made similar allegations in a 1998 suit, which it withdrew in 2002 after Health First dropped its objection to Wuesthoff's application to build a new hospital in Melbourne.