Mass. nurses' union reveals offshore accounts at 40 hospitals

This story has been updated to clarify views expressed by the Massachusetts Hospital Association.

Massachusetts unions want more transparency in hospital finances--and support legislation that would require hospitals to report all investments, after accusations state hospitals kept money in offshore accounts, the Boston Herald's Biz Smart blog reported.

The state's largest nurses' union released a list of 40 hospitals with offshore accounts in places like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, according to the article. The Massachusetts Hospital Association answered the accusations, saying some hospitals create offshore accounts for self-insurance purposes, a "long-standing, fiscally sound and cost effective practice for hospitals compared with the purchase of commercial coverage," according to the blog post.

Southcoast Hospital Group (which runs multiple hospitals in the state), Massachusetts General Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children's Hospital, had accounts in the Cayman Islands, The Herald News reported.

"I am deeply troubled to learn that some Massachusetts hospitals are storing funds offshore in the Cayman Islands and not disclosing it. Before we provide these hospitals with public money for reimbursements we should be demanding greater transparency and accountability," Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) said in an announcement from the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

The group delivered 91,000 signatures on a petition to get the issue on the ballot in November in case the legislature doesn't act, SouthCoastToday reported. As of now, bill H.3844 would limit excessive hospital margins and CEO compensation through greater financial transparency.

The Massachusetts Hospital Association supports transparency, but not the legislation the nurses' union proposes. "The savings produced by hospitals in this area help provide care to all patients regardless of their ability to pay, 24/7. And they help make hospitals economic and public health anchors within the communities they serve," the association said in a statement. "Today's publicity stunt by a union that represents only an estimated 20 percent of the registered nurses in this state is inaccurate, misleading and counterproductive to the vital, lifesaving work that hospitals perform every day."

To learn more:
- here's the blog post
- read The Herald News article
- check out the SouthCoast story
- here's the bill 
- read the statement