Chiaravalloti, McKnight hospital transparency bill clears assembly panel

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A state assembly bill seeking more hospital transparency sponsored by Nick Chiaravalloti and Angela McKnight (both D-31) has cleared a panel as the future of the Bayonne Medical Center remains uncertain.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Accessible healthcare is a human right. For a district as densely populated as the 31st, the closure of a medical center could be the difference between life and death for our residents,” Chiaravalloti.

“If we had known sooner about a planned merger that could leave residents without access to healthcare, we could’ve had conversations with CarePoint Health to try to determine a better approach. This is why communication between hospitals and elected officials is so critical.”

Chiaravalloti introduced the bill last month shortly after CarePoint Health announced they were committing to sell the Christ Hospital in Jersey City and the Hoboken University Medical Center.

The announcement came just 24 hours after officials exclaimed exclaiming that they would fight against any plan that would result in the closure of the Bayonne Medical Center – also owned by CarePoint.

“This legislation will ensure that a hospital’s business practices are above-board and communities are never at risk of losing important services,” added McKnight.

The bill package draws upon recommendations in the State Commission of Investigation (SCI) report regarding hospital-related oversight and accountability in New Jersey, after its investigation into CarePoint Health’s financial management.

The report said that three owners of CarePoint Health received $157 million in management fees from their Hudson County hospitals via a handful of limited liability companies that they own a majority stock in.

Bill (A-5917) would give broader oversight capabilities to the Department of Health (DOH) by expanding its Early Warning System, whose purpose is to detect whether hospitals are nearing or already in financial distress.

The new legislation would require the system to monitor the quantity and suitability of any fees, allocations and payments made to third parties.

Another bill, (A-5916), would allow the New Jersey Department of Health commissioner to notify elected officials if certain hospitals are found to be in financial distress.

Increased transparency would also be required of hospitals when it comes to providing financial information to the DOH.

The third bill (A-5918) would require non-profit hospitals to share IRS Form 990 and for-profit hospitals to submit equivalent information to the DOH in order to reveal aspects of their revenue and taxation.

Further stipulations would require hospitals to submit information about ownership, leases and rentals of offices and properties.

It would also require the identification of investors, business partners and other affiliates while sharing information about projects and ventures financially associated with the hospital.

“With better oversight, we can make sure that what might happen to Bayonne Medical Center cannot – and will not – happen to any other hospitals and their communities going forward,” McKnight further stated.

“If unstable finances may lead to a shut-down, there must be prior warning to the community and any affected parties. These entities cannot be allowed to operate in the shadows with little oversight,” Chiaravalloti noted.

The legislation will now go to Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) for further consideration.