The Naples-based hospital chain poised to buy Bayfront Medical Center is accused of pressuring doctors at some of its hospitals to admit patients regardless of medical need just to increase revenues, the CBS program 60 Minutes reported Sunday.
Doctors at several Health Management Associates hospitals — none in Florida — told 60 Minutes that administrators had set quotas for admissions through their emergency rooms. The accusations centered on hospitals in Pennsylvania, Texas, Arkansas and South Carolina.
Alan Levine, an HMA senior vice president and Florida Group president, denied the allegations. Levine is a former secretary for the Florida agency for Health Care Administration. He and other HMA officials said Friday that the company's emergency-patient admissions are in line with the rest of the industry.
He also tried to stress that patients' doctors, not hospital officials, make decisions about whether admissions are needed.
In October, Bayfront Medical Center announced plans to join HMA's chain of hospitals. Bayfront and HMA plan to close the deal in March pending approval from the city of St. Petersburg, which owns the land on which the hospital sits.
HMA disclosed in previous U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission filings that federal authorities have been investigating certain aspects of the company, including "the medical necessity of emergency room tests and patient admissions."
It said the investigations had been opened by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice, with at least part of the issue focused on whether a type of emergency room software led to unnecessary admissions or tests. The federal government has a huge stake in such issues because of the Medicare program.
HMA has 70 hospitals in 15 states, with the largest concentrations in Florida, Alabama and North Carolina, according to its website. The company's 22 Florida hospitals are generally in small or medium-sized markets.
HMA is also a prominent player in hospital issues in Tallahassee. Its lobbyists include former state GOP chairman Al Cardenas.