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Federal health officials have launched a civil rights investigation into Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) after the hospital turned over trans-identifying clinic patients’ medical records to the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office. The AG’s office is investigating the Nashville-based center for potential medical billing fraud connected to transgender medical treatments for minors.
VUMC chief communications officer John Howser told The Associated Press last week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights contacted the medical center just weeks after two patients sued the hospital system, claiming they were among more than 100 current and former patients whose records were turned over to Tennessee state authorities.
“We have no further comment since this is an ongoing investigation,” Howser said.
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti’s office confirmed in June that it was investigating the medical center over potential billing fraud. The center recently ceased providing cross-sex hormones and performing sex-change surgeries on minors in compliance with a new Tennessee law that took effect earlier this year.
Brandon Smith, chief of staff for the state attorney general, said that the investigation is purely about Vanderbilt’s billing practices and not about the patients themselves, saying the AG’s office was “surprised that VUMC has deliberately chosen to frighten its patients like this.”
“The Office does not publicize fraud investigations to preserve the integrity of the investigative process. The Office maintains patient records in the strictest confidence, as required by law,” Smith added. “The investigation is focused solely on VUMC and certain related providers, not patients, as VUMC is well aware.”
Howser told CNN that the medical center “received valid requests” from state authorities as part of its investigation, which sought information about transgender care at VUMC.
“The Tennessee Attorney General has legal authority in an investigation to require that VUMC provide complete copies of patient medical records that are relevant to that investigation, and VUMC was obligated to do so,” Howser said. “VUMC complies with all health care privacy and security requirements established under both Federal and Tennessee law, including but not limited to HIPAA.”
The investigation into VUMC from the Biden administration comes after a heated legislative session earlier this year when Tennessee Republicans moved to prevent sex change procedures and hormones from being prescribed to minors, legislation prompted by The Daily Wire’s investigation into VUMC’s gender clinic.
Daily Wire host Matt Walsh published a bombshell report last year that prompted Tennessee lawmakers to prohibit doctors from performing sex-change treatments and surgeries on minors.
BREAKING: My team and I have been investigating the transgender clinic at Vanderbilt here in Nashville. Vanderbilt drugs, chemically castrates, and performs double mastectomies on minors. But it gets worse. Here is what we found. Let's start at the beginning.
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) September 20, 2022
Walsh uncovered shocking videos that showed a doctor calling certain sex-change surgeries “huge money makers” and a health law expert saying conscientious objections to the surgeries are “problematic.”
Anthony Cash contributed to this report.