Investment Group Files SEC Complaint Against HCA Healthcare Over Failure to Disclose Elevated Risk of  Medicare Fraud Investigation

Federal regulatory complaint against America’s largest for-profit hospital corporation comes six months after report revealed that HCA may be unnecessarily admitting patients from hospital ERs, potentially putting shareholders at grave risk

NASHVILLE, TN – Today, the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) Investment Group filed a formal complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against HCA Healthcare (NYSE: HCA). The complaint alleges that HCA has failed to disclose information to shareholders regarding material risks associated with allegations of Medicare fraud at the nation’s largest for-profit hospital corporation.

 

“Since at least 2014, HCA has consistently explained its corporate strategy to investors by noting that higher hospital admissions reliably translate into high company earnings, and that emergency departments are one of the key mechanisms through which hospitals can increase their admission rates,” the complaint reads. “For over a decade, Medicare regulators at HHS have identified high levels of emergency department admissions as a potential indicator of improper practices.”

 

Frontline HCA workers and their advocates believe that an SEC investigation could improve patient care for millions of Americans who enter HCA hospitals each year. 

 

“When patients enter our hospitals, they trust us to provide them with quality care,” says Xochitl Gonzalez, a patient care technician at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in California. “But HCA’s determination to boost corporate profits makes it difficult to deliver on this promise. These allegations reinforce what HCA caregivers experience firsthand in our hospitals: HCA’s priority is payouts to corporate bosses like CEO Sam Hazen, not patients or workers.”

 

The complaint calls for the SEC to investigate HCA’s failure to disclose to shareholders potential liability of these alleged practices and for the agency to hold the nation’s largest for-profit healthcare corporation accountable for alleged wrongdoing. 

 

“We are calling on the SEC to investigate HCA Healthcare to ascertain whether HCA’s statements about their emergency admissions are misleading because they fail to disclose HCA’s outlier status and the risks such status entails,” said Dieter Waizenegger of SOC Investment Group. “HCA’s aggressive ER admissions practices and general lack of transparency raise grave concerns about the company’s long-term reputation and success.” 

 

SOC Investment Group holds directors accountable for irresponsible and unethical corporate behavior and excessive executive pay. Founded in February 2006, SOC IG works with pension funds sponsored by unions affiliated with the SOC, a federation of unions representing more than four million members, to enhance long-term shareholder returns through active ownership.

 

Background

 

The SEC has taken action before against hospital corporations and individual executives for failing to disclose Medicare billing abuse. In 2007, the SEC leveled civil fraud charges against Tenet Healthcare for failing to disclose to investors that the company’s strong earnings between 1999 and 2002 were “driven by exploiting a loophole in the Medicare reimbursement system,” a scheme that cost investors billions in lost share value when brought to light.

 

In February 2022, a shocking report spelled out how HCA has potentially been engaging in widespread Medicare fraud through the systematic over-admittance of patients from Emergency Departments (ED) at HCA hospitals—a practice that may have continued throughout the pandemic. Data from the report reveals that HCA may have collected nearly $2 billion in excess Medicare payments since 2008 through these potential ED over-admissions—information that HCA failed to disclose to shareholders.

 

Medicare payments are big business for HCA, with a whopping forty percent of HCA’s revenue coming from taxpayer-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs. 

 

The alleged over-admissions may have put further strain on short-staffed units in HCA hospitals at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially exposing tens of thousands of patients to unnecessary risk including exposure to COVID-19 and other deadly infections. It may have also exacerbated the staffing crisis inside HCA hospitals – which lag national staffing averages by 30%. Nearly 80% of surveyed HCA workers recently reported that short-staffing at their hospitals is jeopardizing patient care. Widespread medically unnecessary hospital admissions may have further starved resources from patients in need of lifesaving care.

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ABOUT SEIU HEALTHCARE

 

More than one million healthcare workers across hospitals, home care, and in nursing homes are united in SEIU, the nation’s largest union of healthcare workers. SEIU is an organization of nearly 2 million members united by a belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide. SEIU is dedicated to improving the lives of workers, families, and communities to create a more just and humane society.

 

For more information, visit: https://www.seiu.org