Columbia/HCA Fires Hospital Execs

From Associated Press

Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., the nation's largest hospital operator, fired two managers at a Kingsport, Tenn., hospital after an internal probe found they may have altered records to maximize reimbursement from federal health programs.

The investigation concluded that Indian Path Medical Center's chief executive, Robert Bauer Jr., and its chief financial officer, Jim Matney, probably altered records on costs in a manner that may have improperly charged federal taxpayers, a spokesman for the hospital chain said Thursday.

Bauer denied any wrongdoing and said he may pursue legal action. He said he was used as a scapegoat for Columbia and called his firing "an obvious attempt to make an example out of me in an effort to enhance its own tarnished image." The firings came as federal investigators continue a nationwide probe into whether Nashville-based Columbia, under its former senior management team, overcharged Medicare and other federal health programs. The investigation has resulted in the indictment of three middle managers in Florida.

Matney said if he made any reporting mistakes, they were unintentional.

No criminal charges have been filed, but federal prosecutors have subpoenaed information from Indian Path.

Columbia last month announced a deal to sell 22 hospitals, including Indian Path, to a nonprofit consortium.

Columbia said Thursday it completed the sale of Value Behavioral Health to FHC Health Systems of Norfolk, Va., for $206.5 million, creating the nation's second-largest behavioral-health management company.

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