ATLANTA - Nonprofit hospitals in Georgia will have to make a wide range of financial data readily available to the public under rules the state Board of Community Health adopted Thursday, Dec. 12.Board members voted unanimously to impose new reporting requirements mandated by the General Assembly last March. Republican legislative leaders proposed the bill in an effort to give consumers the ability make a more informed choice when selecting a hospital for care or treatment.
Under the legislation, hospitals must list on their websites the properties they own, their debts, their policies for providing charity care to the indigent and the salaries of their 10 highest paid employees.
As the legislation moved through the General Assembly, hospital lobbyists argued that gathering the additional data would put a huge financial burden on hospitals, particularly small facilities in rural communities operating with small staffs.
“It takes manpower to pull together the type of reports they expect,” Monty Veazey, president and CEO of the Tifton-based Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, said. “Many of our rural hospitals estimate it costs $30,000 to $40,000 to comply.”
Ethan James, executive vice president for external affairs for the Georgia Hospital Association, said many nonprofit hospitals already make public much of the information required in the new rules.
“It’s not condensed in one spot, but it’s publicly available,” he said.
However, James acknowledged that compiling financial data on hospital websites where it’s easy to find is in the “public good.”
He said an issue hospital administrators have been more concerned about is vague wording that leaves many of the proposed rules subject to interpretation.
“We don’t want to do it wrong,” he said. “And not only do we want to do it right, but everybody needs to be doing it the same.”
As an example, James cited the provision in the rules governing disclosure of top executive salaries that could have been interpreted as extending the requirement to hospital contractors.
But after a presentation to the board Thursday by Rachel King, general counsel for the Georgia Department of Community Health, James said he felt comfortable the salary disclosure rule will be applied only to hospital employees.
Veazey said he, too, was satisfied with clarifications of the rules King offered.
“I feel pretty good about what the department did today,” he said.
In other business, the board took no action on a proposed waiver the state plans to seek from the federal government to go its own way with Georgia’s Medicaid program. The General Assembly authorized Gov. Brian Kemp this year to apply for the waiver, which would take a more conservative approach to Medicaid expansion than the Affordable Care Act.
Board members agreed to wait until a special called next meeting before acting on the waiver application in order to give the department more time to consider late-arriving public comment on the plan.