Martha K. Huggins, Ph.D…….
The Physicians’ Hippocratic Oath includes the sacred pledge to serve “according to my ability and judgment, prescribe a regimen for the health of the sick; …[and] utterly reject harm and mischief.” Just in case such a pledge becomes unimportant with health care’s profitability, “hospital districts” and their boards of directors sometimes become a community’s watch dog over healthcare operations. For its part, the Board of the ‘Lower Keys Hospital District’ oversees “hospitals, medical facilities, and other health care related facilities and services [that operate toward preserving ]…public health, for the public good, and for the…public of the [lower Keys] District….” The Lower Keys Hospital District Board is falling far short of its mission.
Alphabet Soup of Names and Organizations
You’ll be unable to locate in Florida’s corporate registry (Sunbiz.org), Key West’s hospital at 5900 College Road on Stock Island–dubbed the ‘Lower Keys Medical Center’(LKMC). A for-profit corporation, the LKMC hospital is registered in Sunbiz, as ‘Key West HMA’ (Fla. reg. 65-0905661). A Florida subsidiary of two linked corporations–the foreign (out of state) for-profit, ‘Health Management Associates’ (HMA) [of Delaware and Franklin, Tennessee] and Community Health Systems, Inc. (CHS), an out of state (foreign), for- profit corporation, registered in Florida (reg. 33774)—‘Key West HMA’—our hospital on college road—is being gobbled up by a Fortune 500 company—Health Management Associates (Delaware/Franklin, Tennessee). Described as the “largest provider of general hospital healthcare services in the United States,”[i] Health Management Associates (Delaware and Tennessee) is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) as ‘CYH. Both subsidiaries of Health Management Associates–Community Health System’s Inc. (Fla. Reg. P33774) and its ‘Key West HMA’—operate as “corporation service companies.”
Outsourcing Hospital Care to Stock Market Speculation
Corporation Service Companies manage their client’s financial risks and in the process obfuscate ownership and therefore protect investors. Health Management Associates (HMA) offers its clients a range of services, including making “[corporate] filings and other transactions,” managing, monitoring, and protecting “your brands with corporate domain management,” and “serv[ing] as your registered agent.” The Stock Island-based Lower Keys Medical Center (LKMC), our hospital–is managed off-site by Tennessee-based ‘Health Management Associates’ through its Florida corporate subsidiaries, Community Health Systems, Inc. (Fla. reg. 33774) and Key West HMA, LLC (Fla. reg. 65-09056610. In fact, the hospital called, the “Lower Keys Medical Center, does not exist in our state’s corporate universe. The real name of our acute care hospital on Stock Island is, ‘Key West HMA,’ a designation that perhaps does not comfort those with health problems. Bloomberg News confirms that “Key West HMA, LLC doing business as Lower Keys Medical Center,…based in Key West, Florida….operates as a subsidiary of Health Management Associates Inc.”
The physical location of Key West HMA, LLC, according to its Sunbiz registration, is Tallassee Florida; the LLC’s mailing address in Franklin Tennessee, is also used by ‘Key West HMA’s three registered corporate agents (“Managers”). Key West HMA, LLC manages its Stock Island-based Lower Keys Medical Center hospital from Franklin, Tennessee, using local intermediaries, of course.
Calling our Lower Keys Medical Center hospital, ‘Key West HMA, LLC,’ signals the hospital’s real purpose: satisfying stock holders. It can thus be assumed that Key West HMA, LLC, manages our hospital’s “corporate compliance, governance, [and] litigation….”[ii] toward reducing losses and enhancing corporate and stock holder profits.
Over-Charging and Law Suits: Taking up with bad people
The most pathetically glaring example of profits over health is the string of lawsuits against Health Managements Associates of Delaware and Franklin Tennessee, with one recent suit filed against our own Lower Keys Health Center, under management of Key West HMA, LLC. Reporter Gwen Filosa [iii] in Florida Keys News (8/17/2016), disclosed that our “only hospital [LKMC] knowingly tried to collect more than twice it was legally owed by a patient…” Key West Tourist, Gertrude Millien, from Las Vegas, “racked up more than $17,700 in medical bills after a car crash, according to a federal lawsuit claiming a system of financial fraud” by the hospital. Gertrude Millien, “wants a judge to certify her complaint as a class-action lawsuit, claiming she is just one of an estimated 5,000 patients over-billed by the [Lower Keys Medical Center] hospital, which showed ‘wanton and reckless disregard for the rights’ of consumers.”
But this seemingly isolated Key West case is not dangling out there alone:[iv]:
- In 2010, when Community Health Systems (CHS) was managing Oregon’s McKenzie-Willamette [hospital, its] healthcare workers’ union, SEIU, Local 49, claimed that workload increases, slashed benefits, and staff reductions, had lowered the quality of both patient care and quality of life for employees. The union, in its “Profits Before Community” campaign against the hospital,…highlight[ed] that profits have tripled while charitable care and employee benefits have steadily decreased since the hospital moved from a non-profit to a for-profit enterprise under Community Health Systems.
- In 2011, [Community Health System’s client], Tenet Healthcare [was accused] of overbilling Medicare in its aggressive admissions policy compared to its peers. It was subpoenaed by Medicare on its aggressive billing to the Medicare systems.
- On August 4th, 2014, Community Health Systems paid $95.14 million dollars to the United States Department of Justice to resolve multiple lawsuits “alleging that the company knowingly billed government health care programs for inpatient services that should have been billed as outpatient or observation services.”
- On February 2nd, 2015, Community Health Systems was required to pay $75 million to settle allegations “that they made illegal donations to county governments to reap more federal dollars under a now-discontinued matching program.” The allegations were brought about by a former CHS employee in a complaint under the False Claims Act.
- In October 2015, Community Health Systems paid $13 million to the United States Department of Justice to resolve allegations related to the False Claims Act.
An apparent recidivist law breaker, Tennessee-based Community Health Systems (CHS) and its lower keys affiliate Key West HMA, LLC, need close monitoring by the Lower Keys Hospital District. However, as I will show next week, the possible complicity between Key West’s hospital system board and the even more complicated corporate outsourcing of our LKMC hospital will make such monitoring difficult, but not impossible.