A Senate panel investigating alleged unnecessary heart surgeries at hospitals owned by financially troubled Tenet Healthcare Corp. on Monday moved to compel Blue Cross of California to provide its study of the surgeries and related documents.
The Senate Finance Committee issued a subpoena to Blue Cross, which recently stopped covering bypass surgeries at a Tenet-owned hospital in Modesto and threatened to cut all ties with it unless the hospital improved care. Blue Cross later retracted the threat, saying the hospital had addressed its concerns. In the interim, Doctors Medical Center in Modesto had sued Blue Cross for libel and defamation.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday December 17, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 2 inches; 69 words Type of Material: Correction
Tenet subpoena -- An article in Tuesday's Business section about a Senate panel's subpoena to Blue Cross of California for documents related to heart surgeries at hospitals owned by Tenet Healthcare Corp. incorrectly said Doctors Medical Center in Modesto had sued Blue Cross, alleging libel and defamation. In fact, Doctors Medical Center Chief Executive Tim Joslin filed the lawsuit. Neither the hospital nor Tenet was a party to it.
The study commissioned by Blue Cross found that more than half the cardiac bypass surgeries performed on Blue Cross members at the hospital between Jan. 1, 2000, and Jan. 31, 2003, were medically unnecessary.
The study was prompted by an investigation into unnecessary heart surgeries and Medicare over-billing at another Tenet hospital, Redding Medical Center in Redding.
"I was alarmed when Blue Cross announced its concerns about Modesto, especially in light of what happened at Redding Medical Center," panel chairman Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said. "Determining whether Redding is the only hospital where Tenet may have placed profits ahead of patients is a primary concern."
The subpoena requests the results of the Blue Cross study and related information concerning the California hospitals and all Tenet hospitals.
Spokesmen for Blue Cross of California and Tenet weren't available for comment. Further investigations continue into billing practices at Tenet.