Checks and Balances Project (C&BP) has asked Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to determine whether the apparent overcharging of an uninsured patient is an isolated incident or part of a larger pattern of overbilling by Sentara.
A C&BP investigation using Sentara’s “Transparent Pricing Tool” reveals charges for medical services on a patient’s bill exceeded its List Prices. A request for comment by Sentara has gone unanswered.
“As Virginia’s top consumer protection official, we are asking you to promptly investigate whether this is an isolated case or part of a pattern of abuse,” C&BP wrote Attorney General Mark Herring. “We think it is critical that you and your staff get to the bottom of this question as Sentara pushes for an $11.5 billion merger with North Carolina’s Cone Health. That merger has drawn initial scrutiny from your counterpart in North Carolina, Attorney General Josh Stein.”
Sentara enjoys tax exempt status as a nonprofit charity, yet has accumulated net assets of $6 billion. It pays CEO Howard Kern $8 million a year, an amount authorized by an insider-dominated board of directors.
Former California AG Becerra’s Action Against Sutter Health
In 2018, C&BP noted in its email to Herring, then-California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed suit against one of his state’s largest nonprofit health systems, Sutter Health, for a pattern of practices that Becerra considered anti-competitive. Sutter and the state reached a $575 million settlement that was approved in March. Becerra recently joined the Biden Administration as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Reporting Gains Wider Notice
C&BP’s reporting on Sentara’s practices has received wider notice. Earlier this week, the Virginia Mercury cited C&BP’s story about a suit filed against Sentara by rival Chesapeake Regional Medical Center for interfering with its relationships with a group of cardiologists and misuse of the state’s Certificate of Public Need process. That lawsuit asks for at least $20,350,000 in damages and lays out a pattern of unfair business practices that constitute tortious interference.
Ray Locker is enterprise and investigative editor of Checks and Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.