Hospital Chain Investigated for High Rates of Septicemia, Possible Fraudulent Billing

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that a hospital chain in Southern California is being investigated by the Department of Justice and other authorities for its unusually high rate of septicemia mong older patients and whether this is a red flag pointing to fraudulent coding and billing practices.

As Los Angeles Times reporters Lance Williams and Christina Jewett write, "The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the state Department of Justice are looking into whether a reported surge in septicemia infections at hospitals operated by Prime Healthcare Services reflects a serious health problem or multimillion-dollar Medicare fraud, officials at both agencies said. Septicemia, or blood poisoning, arises most often in hospitals with poor procedures for infection control. Severe cases can be difficult and costly to treat, and are often deadly. Medicare pays hospitals several thousand dollars more to treat septicemia than less severe hospital-acquired infections prompting some hospitals to file what officials say are false claims. Health and Human Services Department spokesman Don White said the federal probe of Prime Healthcare was requested in July by Democratic U.S. Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and Pete Stark (D-Fremont)."

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