Checks & Balances Project Files Complaint With IRS Asking for an Investigation
Checks and Balances Project (C&BP) has filed a complaint with the IRS asking the agency to investigate and, depending on the findings that investigation, possibly remove Sentara Healthcare’s nonprofit, tax-exempt status. Here is the Memorandum in Support. C&BP has exposed Sentara’s unclear financial assistance policies, possible overcharges of uninsured patients and aggressive action against competitors.
A C&BP investigation using Sentara’s “Transparent Pricing Tool” reveals charges for medical services on a patient’s bill exceeded its list prices. Formulating and honoring those prices is a factor in the conglomerate’s tax-exempt status, and, if the IRS determined it was egregious, the loss of tax-exempt status could result in Sentara paying back taxes that could wipe out a significant portion of its $6 billion in cash reserves. A request for comment by Sentara has gone unanswered.
The details of the complaint include:
- Sentara’s financial assistance policy is hard to find and decipher, which is a potential violation of both the Affordable Care Act and IRS rules. Sentara may have engaged in a pattern of overcharges for uninsured patients, something C&BP has asked Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to probe.
- Sentara helped force rival DePaul Memorial Hospital to close through its use of the courts and Virginia’s arcane Certificate of Public Need (COPN) process.
- Sentara allegedly interfered with the business practices of rival Chesapeake Regional Medical Center (CRMC), according to a recent lawsuit, while also trying to sabotage CRMC’s attempts to start an open-heart surgery unit.
- The complaint, filed June 10, follows C&BP’s earlier requests for a Federal Trade Commission investigation of Sentara’s proposed $11.5 billion merger with North Carolina’s Cone Health and a request to 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.
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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.