CA hospitals raided on fraud charges

Three hospitals in the Los Angeles area are facing lurid charges that they recruited homeless people on the city's skid row and subjected them to unnecessary tests and procedures in an effort to generate extra income. The hospitals are accused of bilking both Medicare and Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program. In addition to facing state and federal charges, the three facilities have also been sued by Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, whose suit accuses the hospitals of fraudulent business practices.

The alleged scheme appears to have involved the CEO of City of Angels Medical Center, and executives with two suburban facilities, Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center and Tustin Hospital and Medical Center. While federal, state and local investigators are still tallying the dollars generated by these schemes, at present it appears that City of Angels alone collected $5 million in federal healthcare reimbursements.

To recruit sham patients, the hospitals used "runners" who canvassed the streets of the city's skid row section. Homeless people were offered $20 to $30 when they finished a needless hospital stay of one to three days. The runner would get $40 for each homeless recruit eligible for Medicare and $20 for each recruit with Medi-Cal benefits, according to Delgadillo's lawsuit. One hospital, meanwhile, worked with a sham "Assessment Center" that reached out to potential patients and attempted to bring them in to City of Angels, offering money, food or even a pack of cigarettes.

To learn more about the scandal:
- read this Los Angeles Times piece

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