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Hospital stops billing Medicare for rare ailment

The San Diego Union-Tribune / California Watch, December 27, 2012

After billing Medicare for treating more than 1,100 cases of a rare affliction, a Prime Healthcare Services hospital in Redding abruptly stopped last year, state health records show. The change occurred soon after California Watch published a story about aggressive billing practices at the hospital. About six months after it took control of the Shasta Regional Medical Center in Redding in late 2008, Prime began billing Medicare for treating senior citizens it diagnosed with kwashiorkor, a dangerous nutritional disorder usually seen among children during famines in developing countries. At its height, the hospital's billing for the malady surged to nearly 70 times the state average. Prime said in a statement that its Medicare billings are legal and accurate. It declined to respond to follow-up questions.