Allegations that Universal Health Services (UHS) promotes holding patients longer than necessary to maximize profits have reportedly spawned an investigation by multiple federal agencies.
The actions build on a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) probe that resulted in subpoenas for 10 UHS psychiatric hospitals in 2013, according to a BuzzFeed News article. The publication recently learned that the investigation’s scope has now widened to include FBI and Defense Department probes regarding potentially fraudulent billings to government insurance providers, covering at least 10% of the company’s psychiatric facilities.
The article notes that psychiatric hospitals receive payment for each day of a patient’s stay, so keeping them in locked facilities without a real reason can be good for the bottom line, especially at an institution running under capacity.
The Department of Defense’s (DOD) involvement likely stems from care provided to active military personnel via Tricare, the insurance plan for active military and their families, the publication notes. While the DOD didn't acknowledge the investigation, two former employees from Salt Lake Behavioral Health told BuzzFeed they had been interviewed by agency investigators.
Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has called for government investigations into conduct at UHS on at least two previous occasions based upon media reports of low nurse staffing, medication errors, and sexual misconduct. A continuing Buzzfeed News investigation has collected information from staff at 15 of the provider’s facilities who described situations in which doctors ignored recommendations to discharge patients until they had exhausted the number of days of coverage available under their insurance plans.
UHS has consistently denied the claims and told the publication that it does not manipulate a patient’s stay for financial gain. Furthermore, it said it has consistently received high-satisfaction marks from patients.