In a story posted online Monday night, the New York Times reported that doctors at three current or former HCA hospitals in Florida appeared to have been conducting heart surgeries such as stent implantation and angioplasties despite dubious evidence of medical necessity. The newspaper said revenue from such procedures was important for paying 2011 dividends to private equity investors that took the firm private in 2006.
The newspaper report relied on a trove of internal HCA documents and e-mails, as well as an interview with a former HCA nurse who said he was dismissed from his job after raising concerns. The story also cited medical-hearing testimony from a physician.
HCA attempted to pre-empt the story Monday morning, releasing a response to what it believed the newspaper would report and saying questions of medical necessity regarding cardiac procedures are subjective physician-led decisions about which experts may disagree. HCA spokesman Ed Fishbough declined to update the company's statement following publication of the story.
News of the impending story came out during the same quarterly earnings call Monday morning in which the company revealed that 10 of its hospitals, mostly in Florida, had in July received requests for information from the Miami U.S. attorney's office regarding the medical necessity of interventional cardiology services.
HCA's quarterly disclosure to the Securities and Exchange Commission that morning said the company could not assess the impact of any claims potentially filed under the federal whistleblower law known as the False Claims Act against the company.
Meanwhile, 95 of HCA's 163 hospitals are also under review in a separate Justice Department investigation into medical necessity of implantable cardioverter-defibriallators, the SEC notice said. Hundreds of U.S. hospitals are believed to be affected by the 2-year-old review, which sources say could move toward a final conclusion this fall.