Prime Healthcare expands into friendlier markets

Hospital operator Prime Healthcare, under pressure in its California base, is moving into the more comfortable confines of Texas, reported The Texas Tribune.

Prime, which operates 13 hospitals in California, recently acquired 112-bed Harlingen Medical Center in South Texas in late 2011, and just completed the purchase of 115-bed Pampa Regional Medical Center in North Texas in late May, according to the Tribune.

Critics of the for-profit Prime say it is looking to purchase financially distressed properties where it will not draw too much scrutiny, the Tribune reported.  According to a Prime spokesman, it is looking outside California "for expansion."

Prime has come under fire for its billing practices in the Golden State, with patterns suggesting much higher levels of charges than the norm for patients suffering from a rare form of malnutrition and high rates of septicemia.

"They look for opportunities where they can catch people in the emergency room and focus on obtaining as much reimbursement as possible from Medicare and from private payers," Adam Weisberg, a research coordinator with the Service Employees International Union, told the Tribune.

Pampa CEO Brad Morse said the hospital's prior owner, Signature Healthcare Corporation of Houston, had been in negotiations with two other organizations, but thought Prime was a better fit, reported the Amarillo Globe-News.

For more:
- read the Texas Tribune article
- check out the Globe-News article