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CA hospital’s heart diagnoses surge after pay changed

San Francisco Chronicle/California Watch, November 29, 2011

For three years, a small hospital east of Los Angeles has billed Medicare for the costs of confronting what appears to be a cardiac crisis of unprecedented dimension. From 2008 through 2010, Chino Valley Medical Center in San Bernardino County claimed that 35.2% of its Medicare patients were suffering from acute heart failure -- a dangerous, often-deadly breakdown in the heart's ability to pump blood. That's six times the state average, according to a California Watch analysis of Medicare billing data. This reported surge of heart failure among older patients entitled the hospital's parent company, Prime Healthcare Services, to bonus treatment payments from the federal government worth thousands of dollars per case, Medicare records show.