I-Team: Proposed Landmark buyer has troubled past

By Jim Taricani

Just two weeks ago, a Providence Superior Court judge approved the sale of Landmark Medical Center to Prime Healthcare Services, a for-profit hospital chain based in California.

It was a $60 million deal.

Prime Healthcare submitted a bid as Steward Health Care dropped its proposal to buy Landmark after 16 months of pursuing the purchase.

But a health care provider provided the NBC 10 I-Team with a record of Prime Healthcare's controversial past.

Dozens of news articles from across the country reveal in part:

  • Prime Healthcare cancels insurance contracts allowing the hospital to collect higher reimbursements
  • Prime Healthcare was sued by a health care provider for fraudulent billing.
  • A 2007 Los Angeles Times investigation found in a two-hour period, three uninsured patients left the emergency room at a Prime Healthcare hospital after waiting four hours to be cared for.
  • Former Prime Healthcare employees claimed they were taught to use diagnosis codes that would generate higher reimbursement rates from Medicare.
  • Prime Healthcare has laid off employees after purchasing a hospital, and the company is under investigation by the federal Health and Human Services Department for possible Medicare fraud.

Despite the articles, Prime Healthcare has won two awards for excellent care over the past several years.

It hopes to complete the acquisition process in Rhode Island by May.

In a statement to the I-Team, Prime Healthcare said, "Despite the peer-reviewed accolades, Prime Healthcare has had to defend itself for more than two years against an extortion campaign by the Service Employees International Union - United Healthcare Workers West."

And a Prime Healthcare spokesman said the company has always been approved for its acquisitions, despite what he called a union smear campaign.