An investigation by Checks & Balances Project exposed for regulators the company’s conflicts of interests, strong-arm tactics and potential overcharges of uninsured patients.
Sentara Healthcare’s announcement Wednesday that it was no longer trying to merge with Cone Health of North Carolina follows a series of reports by Checks and Balances Project (C&BP) over the last seven months. Those stories detailed Sentara’s attempts to enlarge its monopoly in the Hampton Roads area.
Since November, C&BP has highlighted the following of Sentara’s unsavory practices:
- Potential massive overcharges by Sentara of uninsured patients. Last month, C&BP reported on the case of a patient who visited the emergency room at Sentara’s Virginia Beach hospital for treatment for a kidney stone. The patient’s bill showed charges for services that were twice as high as the listed price on Sentara’s transparency list.
- Starting in February, C&BP showed how Sentara benefited from a ruling by Norfolk Chief Circuit Judge Mary Jane Hall, who had previously represented Sentara. Hall’s co-counsel on that case, Jamie Martin, is now Sentara’s main outside counsel and had represented the company in the case in Hall’s court. That case is now before the Virginia Supreme Court.
- Abuse of the state’s outmoded Certificate Of Public Need (COPN) law to force the closing of the competing DePaul hospital, which had the highest rates of charity care in Virginia.
- Allegations of unfair business practices, including the poaching of a group of cardiologists from competing Chesapeake Regional Medical Center.
- C&BP also sought investigations by the Federal Trade Commission and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring of the now-canceled Sentara-Cone Health merger and the potential overcharges of uninsured patients.
These actions, combined with scrutiny from North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, were followed by Sentara’s surprise decision to call off the Cone Health merger.
Sentara’s decision also came after they had hired an expensive Washington-based PR and political consulting firm to investigate Checks and Balances Project and help navigate through the roiling waters of community protest and scrutiny.
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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.
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