U.S. Programs May Exclude Tenet Hospital

Times Staff Writer

The federal government said Monday that it had moved to bar Tenet Healthcare Corp.’s San Diego hospital from Medicare and other government programs because of alleged kickbacks to doctors.

The move could be costly to Tenet, possibly forcing it to sell the profitable hospital -- a rare commodity these days -- at a fire-sale price.

Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly and disabled, covers such a large portion of inpatient medical care that the loss of that business can undermine a hospital’s viability.


The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General notified Dallas-based Tenet that it intended to exclude Alvarado Hospital Medical Center in San Diego from the Medicare program, the Medicaid plan for the poor and all other federal health programs.

The decision is based on allegations that Alvarado paid kickbacks over 10 years to induce doctors to refer patients for services and items paid for by the federal programs, Inspector Gen. Daniel Levinson said in a statement.

Tenet suggested that excluding Alvarado from government programs would be the death knell for the 311-bed hospital.

“We have explained to the [Office of Inspector General] that excluding this hospital from the Medicare program would be unfair and unwarranted,” Tenet said in a statement. “It could ultimately force Alvarado Hospital Medical Center to close, thus eliminating the jobs of hundreds of healthcare workers and reducing needed access to care.”

Tenet has 30 days to submit evidence and would have the right to appeal an exclusion.

Tenet, Alvarado and a former hospital administrator have been tried twice on related criminal charges. Both ended in mistrial after jurors were unable to agree.