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Rewards, Shaming at HMA?

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Troubling allegations continue to emerge that the Naples-based Health Management Associates illegally pressured doctors and hospital staffs to admit and illegally bill Medicaid and Medicare, all in the name of making money.

HMA emergency room doctors were publicly celebrated or shamed with scorecards that counted the number of patients they admitted each day. A baby with a 98.7 temperature was diagnosed as having a fever and given a bed, while a teenager insured through Medicaid was admitted for having a cut on his leg, according to whistleblower allegations highlighted in the New York Times.

The lawsuits repeatedly point to former chief executive Gary Newsome as directing the company-wide strategy that also included financial incentives for doctors with high number of admissions. HMA operates 23 hospitals in Florida.

The lawsuits, which now have the backing of the U.S. Department of Justice, come as the hospital chain is in the final stages of a $3.9 billion sale to Tennessee-based Community Health Systems. That chain also faces similar accusations of improper charges, but is in settlement talks with federal regulators.

The Times notes that HMA investors haven’t been scared away by the lawsuits or the sale. Analyst Sheryl Skolnick told the Times that investors see the allegations as “simply the cost of doing business.”

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.