STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER ORSON SWINDLE
IN THE MATTER OF
COLUMBIA/HCA HEALTHCARE CORPORATION
FILE NO. 961 0013
I did not join in the statement issued by my colleagues because I cannot simultaneously express both satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the $2.5 million civil penalty negotiated in this case. That penalty is inadequate in light of Columbia/HCA's prolonged and pronounced disregard for the requirements of two Commission divestiture orders and the Utah Hold Separate Agreement. A substantially higher penalty amount was warranted, and we should have pursued it aggressively.
In their statement, my colleagues note "Columbia's apparent reckless disregard for its obligations" and conclude that "the Commission would have been well within its rights to demand an even higher civil penalty." I could not agree more. Yet this leads me to conclude that the Commission should not have accepted this settlement. I do not believe that a promise to be more demanding in the future is an adequate substitute for pursuing the more substantial civil penalty that we all agree, at this moment, would have been appropriate.
Considering my strong misgivings, then, one might ask why I voted to accept the $2.5 million civil penalty. When my effort to seek a higher penalty failed to garner the support of my colleagues, the choice came down to what was on the table or nothing. Given those alternatives, the choice was easy.