NJ health commissioner wants hospitals to make financial disclosures

New Jersey's state health commissioner put forth a proposal that would require all hospitals in the state to publicly disclose their financial data, the Newark Star-Ledger reported.

Should Commissioner Mary O'Dowd get her way, both non-profit and for-profit facilities would have to disclose their in-depth financial audits and list their internal business dealings.

Gov. Chris Christie (R) requested the report after vetoing a 2012 bill that would require broad disclosures from for-profit hospitals.

Veering away from transparency would encourage self-dealing and conflicts of interest that "can lead to losses that endanger the healthcare system, compromise access to hospital care, and bring into question the stewardship of public funds," according to O'Dowd's 24-page report. As a result, the disclosures recommended by O'Dowd's department would "strike a careful balance between the unique and important nature of healthcare services, the significant amount of public funds hospitals receive and the need to prevent placing an undue burden on healthcare providers."

Moreover, it would also provide enough information for members of the public to raise relevant questions if they thought hospitals were not being good stewards of public funds.

Few states mandate in-depth financial reporting by hospitals. Massachusetts has perhaps the most comprehensive law regarding financial transparency by healthcare providers, but red tape often makes it difficult for consumers to obtain specific information in a timely manner.

However, the report falls short of requiring hospitals to disclose compensation of their top executives and real estate dealings, according to the Star-Ledger. That drew some criticism from labor unions, which have been supportive of more disclosure.

There was no specific timelines as to when New Jersey's hospitals would have to make disclosure, and many of the guidelines would fall under regulations that O'Dowd's office has yet to write, according to the article.

To learn more:
- read the Newark Star-Ledger article
- read the report (.pdf)