Major Content Notice for involuntary commitment and abuse of mentally ill persons.
BuzzFeed wins points for respect with this stomach-churning expose of profit-motivated abuses in psychiatric hospitals in the United States.
Two dozen current and former employees from 14 UHS facilities across the country told BuzzFeed News that the rule was to keep patients until their insurance ran out in order to get the maximum payment.
Three former heads of UHS hospitals said their divisional vice president, Sharon Worsham, repeated a mantra: “Don’t leave days on the table.”
“If an insurance company gave you so many days, you were expected to keep the patient there that many days,” said Rick Buckelew, who ran Austin Lakes Hospital in Texas until 2014. It was a “common practice” that was openly discussed in regional conferences as well as phone calls with hospital executives, which Worsham led, he said. Buckelew added that he did not follow this practice and that the operations he oversaw at his facility were appropriate. Worsham said she and Buckelew did not have regular discussions “about days on the table relating to Austin Lakes.”
Employees of UHS hospitals from Utah to Pennsylvania said this message trickled down to staff and doctors through “flash” meetings, the daily gatherings in which administrators ran through the list of patients in the hospital, discussing treatment and discharge.
For patients, the experience could be bewildering, even terrifying. “It was pretty common to get women in the unit who were like, ‘Why am I here? I don’t need to be here,’” recalled one former manager at Salt Lake Behavioral. “We were just encouraged to talk them into staying until as long as insurance would cover.”
She added, “Whatever manipulative strategies we could use, we were encouraged to.” If the patient was a mother, she said, employees might threaten to call child protective services and have the patient’s children removed from her care.
But more than a dozen current and former employees also said that UHS pushed employees to make sure that uninsured patients were discharged as quickly as possible — or better yet, not admitted at all.
Ellis, the counselor who worked in the admissions department at Salt Lake Behavioral Health, said the practice posed a dilemma: “On the one hand, you have insured people who didn’t always need treatment getting admitted. But the flipside is that you have uninsured people not being hospitalized when they should be.”
“People didn’t get admitted because they met the criteria,” she said. “There was always a financial consideration.”
At the company’s Florida hospitals between 2013 and 2015, 55% of self-paying patients were discharged within three days, compared with just 30% of patients with commercial insurance. (Other for-profit psychiatric hospitals had a similar disparity, but not-for-profits showed almost no difference.) In California, a similar pattern was found.
Read more here.
Again, perfect demonstration of why you keep profit far, far away from any institution that serves vulnerable populations. That is an aspect of society that can only be defined by pro-social welfare. It is impossible to prioritize the wellbeing of a client in a profit-driven enterprise, since profit can only be milked from the already-insured. The actual sick, who need help, aren’t getting it if they’re uninsured.
This is a clusterfuck of a failure in every conceivable way. Christ on a stick.
But the free market always produces the optimum solution. The great skeptic Michael Shermer told me so.