- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Executives for the parent company of Greater Southeast Community Hospital yesterday disputed recent accusations that the company overcharged the government for lab services provided to another D.C. hospital.

D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at large independent, has said Greater Southeast overbilled for lab tests it ran for Hadley Memorial Hospital at a time when both entities were run by Envision Hospital Corp. of Arizona.

Mr. Catania said Greater Southeast overbilled Hadley for routine lab tests, with many of the costs ultimately paid by government insurance plans. He also called the arrangement “self-dealing” and possible Medicaid fraud.

Mr. Catania cited billing records showing Greater Southeast charged Hadley $123 for an ovarian cancer screen test. But he said Washington Hospital Center charged $29 for the same procedure.

However, Envision officials, who recently sold Hadley, are defending their billing practices.

Donna Talbot, a consultant for Envision who handles the company’s Medicaid reimbursement issues, yesterday called the hospital’s handling of lab costs “appropriate and consistent with federal regulations.”

She said Greater Southeast only charged Hadley 30 percent of the full cost. A lab test costing $100 would have cost Hadley $30, she said.

“How much a hospital charges has nothing to do with how much it gets paid,” she said.

Miss Talbot also said Greater Southeast’s lab services charges were approved by Medicare and Medicaid officials.

A spokesman said Mr. Catania declined to comment yesterday and was reviewing the billing records.

Greater Southeast had until yesterday to submit a plan to city health regulators to fix staffing, equipment and other problems at the Ward 8 hospital.

Dr. Gregg A. Pane, director of the D.C. Department of Health, testified Monday that city health inspectors found “a host of problems in all areas” at Greater Southeast.

An attorney for the hospital said Greater Southeast is cooperating with city inspectors. A spokeswoman for the health department said officials are reviewing the hospital’s corrective action plan.

Mr. Catania, who plans an oversight hearing on Greater Southeast on Friday, said the hospital will not close. But he has held out the possibility of D.C. officials petitioning a judge to appoint a receiver to run the facility.

Envision Chairman Paul Tuft is seeking to sell the hospital, but delays have beset a tentative deal with Prince George’s businessman and road paving executive Carl Jones.