LOS ANGELES -- Tenet Healthcare Corp. could pay more than $1 billion to settle federal probes and hundreds of claims that doctors at its Redding hospital performed unnecessary heart surgeries, a newspaper reported Friday.
The nation's second-largest for-profit hospital chain is in preliminary discussions with government officials and lawyers representing more than 750 patients, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing sources familiar with the talks.
Tenet acknowledged that talks were proceeding on a number of fronts with the government, but stressed that no deals were expected soon.
''As we have said before, for almost a year, Tenet's new management team is attempting to resolve all issues related to its past pricing strategy and other matters," Tenet spokesman Steven Campanini said.
''We believe we have made significant progress in improving the tone of our conversations with the government and others and we hope to reach such settlements."
Tenet's practices, including its handling of Medicare billing, have been scrutinized for 18 months.
The company already agreed to pay $54 million to settle government allegations that two doctors at its hospital in Redding performed unnecessary heart surgeries.
Also, the Santa Barbara-based company announced in March that it had agreed to pay $30.75 million to settle an investigation involving a Tenet-owned hospital in Florida and a second nationwide probe.
Financial analysts have estimated that Tenet may eventually pay as much as $1 billion to settle lawsuits as well as federal investigations into Medicare payments, physician relocation arrangements, and other issues.
On Friday, Tenet called such speculation ''premature."
''Currently, there is no agreement with the government, nor do we anticipate reaching one soon," Campanini said.
Shares of Tenet closed at $12.63 on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday.
US markets were closed Friday for the funeral of former President Ronald Reagan.