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California

Tenet Cardiac Doctor to Suspend Practice

January 29, 2003|Ronald D. White | Times Staff Writer

The head of the cardiology department at Tenet Healthcare Corp.'s Redding, Calif., hospital, who faces a federal investigation of allegations that he performed unnecessary procedures, is suspending his practice because he is losing his medical malpractice insurance.

Dr. Chae Hyun Moon said in a statement Tuesday that his malpractice coverage will expire Saturday. His spokesman said Moon will be contacting patients about possible referrals.

The offices of Moon, 56, and that of a Redding Medical Center heart surgeon, Fidel Realyvasquez, were raided by federal agents in October as part of an investigation into whether some surgeries they performed were unwarranted. No charges have been filed.

Moon said in the statement that his insurer's decision was "grossly unjust, as no legal charges have ever been brought against me."

Tenet spokesman Steve Campanini said the Santa Barbara-based hospital company "understands and accepts Dr. Moon's decision."

Redding Medical Center has been among Tenet's most profitable hospitals, largely because of its extensive cardiac program.

Separately Tuesday, Tenet said it had settled lawsuits filed by an advocacy group that claimed the hospital chain overcharged uninsured Latino patients in Southern California. Terms were not disclosed.

Consejo de Latinos Unidos (Council of United Latinos) in Los Angeles sued Tenet last February on behalf of 10 patients for allegedly billing them at rates four to seven times higher than what it charges health insurers. K.B. Forbes, the group's director, claimed that Tenet sought the higher charges to collect extra government reimbursements, which Tenet has repeatedly denied.

Tenet also said Tuesday that it would seek regulatory approval to cut the prices it charges for uninsured patients nationwide. However, a source said the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will have to determine whether such a plan violates anti-kickback laws against hospitals offering financial incentives for providing services.

As part of its campaign to improve its public image, Tenet also said it would no longer place liens on the homes of uninsured patients.

Analysts generally praised Tenet's agreement with the Consejo group as a good political move and one that would not have a significant effect on the company's bottom line.

In recent months, Tenet's stock price has fallen dramatically after revelations that federal regulators were investigating the company's excessive Medicare reimbursements. The company has denied that it violated any laws.

Tenet shares dropped 1 cent Tuesday to close at $18.05 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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