Hospital turns over transgender patient records to Tennessee attorney general in investigation

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has turned over transgender patient records to the Department of Homeland Security, in response to a subpoena. The records included information on hormone therapy and other sensitive treatments.

Hospital turns over transgender patient records to Tennessee attorney general in investigation

NASHVILLE (AP) - Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in Tennessee, has handed over records of transgender patients' medical care to the Tennessee Attorney General's office as part of an investigation that his office confirmed was an investigation into possible medical billing fraud.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center spokeswoman

The Tennessean confirms

On Tuesday, the hospital informed the office of Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti that it had provided them with the records.

The Attorney General's Office assured families that records would be kept confidential and that they were not the focus of an investigation. However, some families are still concerned.

The ban will not take effect until July 1. It is being challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice in federal court.

John Howser, a spokesperson for Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), said that the Attorney General's Office requested information on transgender health care at VUMC.

The Tennessee Attorney General is legally entitled to demand that VUMC provides complete copies of all patient medical records relevant to the investigation. VUMC had to comply with the law and it did,' Howser stated in a press release.

Brandon Smith, chief of staff for the Attorney General, told The Tennessean the office "maintains all patient records with the strictest confidentiality, as required by the law", and that this investigation is aimed at VUMC and some related providers and not the patients. He stated that the office has been looking into potential medical billing fraud committed by the hospital and other providers since September 2022. Smith stated that the hospital started providing patient records to his office in December 2022.

Paul Hales, an attorney specializing in privacy of health information based in St. Louis, told the newspaper that the attorney general could request patient health records if they are investigating a potential issue at the hospital.

The Tennessee Equality Project's executive director, Chris Sanders, said that three parents of transgender kids contacted him on Monday after Vanderbilt told them of the Attorney General's release of records.

He told the newspaper that 'they're terrified'. They don't understand what will happen next. They don't even know if they'll be targeted. They feel that their privacy was violated.

Smith, chief of staff for the Attorney General, stated on Tuesday that Vanderbilt 'deliberately chose to scare its patients' regarding the release of the records.

Smith stated that the office "doesn't publicize fraud investigations in order to preserve the integrity and the investigative process."

Tennessee has been at the forefront of the controversy surrounding transgender medical care, ever since a video of a Nashville physician claiming that gender-affirming surgeries are 'huge revenue makers' for hospitals surfaced last year on social media. Vanderbilt suspended all gender-affirming procedures for minors.

The video led Tennessee's Republican leaders to call for an investigation of Vanderbilt. The politicians at the time could not point to any specific law that Vanderbilt had broken.

The nonprofit private hospital has said that it has only performed a few gender-affirming procedures on minors in the past, but is temporarily halting the procedure to review its policy.

Vanderbilt says it has provided gender affirming surgeries for minors on average five times a year since the opening of its transgender clinic in 2018. The majority of the patients were older than 16 years old, had parental consent and no genital surgery was performed.

Tennessee's ban on gender affirming care for youth transgender will go into effect in less that two weeks, unless a judge takes action.

Doctors are prohibited from prescribing hormones and puberty blocks to patients under 18 years of age.

This allows doctors to provide these services to patients whose care began before July 1, 2018. The care of the patient must be completed by March 31, 2020.

Federal judges temporarily blocked similar bans for minors in Alabama, Indiana and Arkansas, and permanently blocked a ban in Arkansas. Three states have restricted or banned the care via administrative orders or regulations.