Times: ER changes powered HCA profit surge

So The New York Times has published the expected second story stemming from its investigation of HCA Holdings. The piece lays out the big rewards reaped by the hospital chain's private-equity investors but spends most of its time on the changes to ER admission procedures executives rolled out in 2008.

Nearly overnight, HCA’s patients appeared to be much, much sicker. By 2010, HCA had surpassed other hospitals, with 76 percent of its payments coming from the two most expensive classifications, versus 74 percent for other hospitals.

For individual HCA hospitals, the change made a big difference. At Riverside Community Hospital in California, Medicare reimbursements for the highest classifications surged to $949,000 in 2010, from $48,000 in 2006. Likewise, at Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami, Medicare payments jumped to $1.5 million from $69,000.

The story also takes HCA to task for some of its staffing levels, saying the company's aggressive approach has resulted in higher-than-normal rates of bedsores and, in some cases, much more serious complications.