US HEALTH FIRM SCANDAL
Fraudsters that Blair will let into the NHS
OBSERVER journalist Nick Cohen last week exposed the rotten record of the US private health outfit hoping to cash in on new Labour's drive to privatise more of the NHS. In May HCA took over the Portland, Harley Street, Princess Grace and Wellington private hospitals in London. It has since bought up the Devonshire, Lister and London Bridge hospitals in the capital.
Under New Labour's health plans the NHS will pay private hospitals to carry out operations.
On 19 May HCA agreed to pay 500 million to the US Justice Department for the greatest fraud in US medical history. The company did not admit liability. But two of its executives have been jailed and lawyers think the company could end up paying some $1 billion in fines. Private firms in the US system routinely defraud the public purse by demanding payment for operations that never happened.
One company even put the manger's son's BMW car down as a medical expense. The US Department of Health reckons that private hospitals are overpaid by some 15 billion a year. HCA was known as Columbia before a recent name change. The US government says, "Columbia's fraudulent cost-reporting practices have infected the cost reports of virtually every healthcare facility."
Mark Gardner, who worked in three Columbia hospitals, testified, "I committed felonies every day. "Let me tell you, this is a ruthless greedy company. Employees are the largest operating expense. Cut that to the bone. Cut nursing to the bone." These firms should be kept as part of the NHS.