Hospitals Cut Services to Pay Fraudulent Interest-Rate Swap Deals
July 17, 2012 • 4:03PM

More than 500 nonprofit hospitals, one in six nationwide, bought interest rate swaps in recent years. Dozens were then hard-hit in these deals, paying out millions of dollars because of rigged interest rates and terms of contract. They had to cut medical services.

The mode of looting of hospitals by rigged interest rates and "markets" involved inducing hospitals away from seeking any steady, low-interest, long-term borrowing, into using the "auction-rate securities market" for their borrowing (which re-set bond prices weekly or monthly through auctions), along with interest rate swap contracts. Then in 2008, when the auction-rate market was suddenly made to crash, hospitals were left with higher interest rates for debt, and at the same time, were stiffed on the LIBOR rates in the swaps. Some hospitals saw their interest rates rocket up from 5% to 20%!

One Wall Street bankster politely summed it up this way in July, 2010: "Financial engineering [read: fraud] by Wall Street has been a huge part of hospitals' financial problems and has even translated into a lack of hospital beds." This was the description by wheeler-dealer Brian McGough, at Bank of Montreal Capital Markets office in Chicago.

Over 2009 to the present, Obama and Geithner perpetuated this debacle, all the while swooning over their new health care system. Some examples:

* OWENSBORO MEDICAL HEALTH SYSTEM, KENTUCKY was stung by the deals. It then paid out $14 million termination fee to Merrill Lynch (later part of Bank of America) to end its interest-rate swaps, in Spring 2010.

* SARASOTA MEMORIAL HOSPITAL IN FLORIDA lost more than $5 million on its package of auction-date securities and interest rate swaps. The hospital had to cancel plans to build a new hospital in nearby North Port, Fla., where population was growing and a medical center needed. "We were going to build a 300-bed hospital there, but I don't see that happening for a long time, partly because of this Wall Street mess. Now, 50,000 people are without a hospital," said Sarasota Hospital's Chief Financial Officer David Verinder, in 2010.

* TRI-CITY MEDICAL CENTER, CALIFORNIA, in Oceanside, refinanced its debt with interest-rate swaps, in Spring 2007, pitched to the hospital by Citigroup and by Smith Barney (later co-owned by Morgan Stanley). In the end, Tri-City was hit by a jump to 17% interest rate, and had to pay some $16 million more, than its prior borrowing costs. Tri-City finally ended up paying $6 million to Citigroup to get out of its securities (which were auction-rate) and interest rate swaps. This came about after the hospital sued (filed April 2010) Citigroup and Smith Barney. The hospital had to delay capital improvements and services because of this bilking, according to Tri-City's attorney Daniel Callahan, who said in 2010, that the financial loss "continues to impact Tri-City's ability to meet the needs of the entire community."

* ROGUE VALLEY MEDICAL CENTER, Medford, Oregon. The hospital saw its borrowing interest rate shoot up from 5 to 18%, during the chaos when the auction-rate securities market was collapsed in 2008. The hospital had to pay out $5 million more than it had figured on, at the very same time that its revenue fell, because people in the community were losing their jobs and couldn't pay for treatment. Merrill Lynch/Bank of America demanded $30 million termination fee to end the swaps. This was paid, after a hospital staff reduction, job freeze and other cutbacks were imposed.