Seattle, WA (NursingSalary.org) – A U.S. Government study shows how Kindred Healthcare Inc. and Sun Healthcare Group Inc., two of America’s largest for-profit nursing home companies, are more likely to overcharge Medicare for costly services.
Medicare is highly advised to thoroughly analyze cases in which companies hospitalize patients for extended periods of time, overcharge for their care services and assign patients to more extensive and costly treatments than they actually need.
Issued by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Inspector General, the report is based on audits on the nursing homes’ billings between 2006 and 2008. The inspectors reached the conclusion that the practices of the two companies “raise concerns regarding the potentially inappropriate use of higher-paying billing codes.”
Following the release of the report, Medicare plans to start investigations on a yet to be disclosed list of nursing homes with questionable billing policies. The report only mentions that the nursing homes in question are the ones who focus on treating and recovering patients who had suffered injuries or have temporary disabilities. “Such services tend to cost Medicare too much,” said Brian Cook, spokesman of U.S. Rep. Pete Stark of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee. “With such companies charging more than they should, Medicare will pay too little for other services. The whole health system has to suffer.”
Following the release of the report, Kindred’s position on the stock market was a bit shaken. Their shares fell 36 cents—approximately 1.9 percent—to $18.99 at 4:04 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading on Thursday, December 23rd. Sun Healthcare apparently wasn’t impacted by the bad publicity, as their shares rose 18 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $12.75.
None of the representatives of the two companies have made a public statement regarding the conclusions of the report yet.
Susan Moss, vice president of communications with the Kindred branch in Louisville, KY, the largest publicly traded U.S. health care company ranked by number of beds, didn’t respond to a telephone message requesting comment. Bernadette Bell, a spokeswoman for the Irvine, CA branch of Sun Healthcare, the second largest by number of beds, also didn’t follow up on message left in her voicemail box. However, neither of them are to blame, since the report was released very close to the Winter Holidays and a lot of people are on vacation.