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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Union deserves credit for fraud exposure

In his opinion column, "Small businesses are standing up to the NLRB" (Commentary, Wednesday), Ron Lazof wrongly celebrates California-based hospital chain Prime Healthcare for taking on organized labor. In fact, it was our union that exposed the company's alleged overbilling of Medicare and other patients that the FBI and California state officials are now investigating.

The Center for Investigative Reporting, in its award-winning expose on Prime Healthcare, describes the impossibly high rates of serious -- and lucrative -- medical conditions that Prime Healthcare is billing to taxpayers through Medicare. These phantom diagnoses include more than 1,000 cases of an extremely rare disease known as Kwashiorkor, which is typically found in starving children in famine-stricken countries. By diagnosing these unsuspecting seniors, Prime Healthcare allegedly increased its reimbursement rates, and has reaped tens of millions of dollars in additional Medicare payments.

Even worse, Prime Healthcare has no qualms about promoting the waste of taxpayer money. During a January 2013 speech at a newly acquired hospital, company owner Dr. Prem Reddy urged doctors to find reasons to admit Medicare patients to the hospital rather than treat them as outpatients, saying the Medicare payouts would triple.

Prime Healthcare is no model for labor relations, nor is it a model for integrity. Instead, it is a great example of how unions can protect taxpayers by identifying potential fraud in a system that needs stricter enforcement.

DAVE REGAN

President

SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West

Oakland, Calif.

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