For The Record

Hospitals want clarity on nonprofit hospital transparency law

By: - October 11, 2019 8:42 am

A dispute over an annotated compilation of Georgia’s laws was at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court copyright argument on Monday. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

The state’s health care regulatory board is fleshing out the details of a plan that requires most of the state’s hospitals to publicly post financial information on their websites.

State lawmakers approved the new requirements this year as a way to require more transparency from hospitals that enjoy the perks of non-profit status but prefer to keep their business dealings out of public view.

The law took effect Oct. 1 but the Board of Community Health has just begun the process of polishing up the rules.

If hospitals violate the rules, they could lose access to state funding.

The board voted Thursday to proceed, kicking off a public comment period that will end Nov. 15. A public hearing will be held at 9 a.m. on Nov. 12 at the state Department of Community Health’s downtown meeting room.

The proposed rules, which are now online, spell out what documents must now be posted online and how. That language was pulled straight out of the new law, said the agency’s attorney, Rachel King.

Those documents include public records, such as the hospital’s IRS Form 990 – which includes basic financial information and the salaries of top staff. But hospitals will also have to post information that are not usually as easily acquired, such as details about their real estate holdings and any ownership a hospital may have in another business venture.

Each hospital must also publish online any audited financial statements, including information on the facility’s revenues and the amount of charity care provided.

The board will likely hear from hospitals who have differing views for what documents should qualify.

“It’s anticipated that hospitals will have different comments on what constitutes these documents,” King told the board. “And we’ll certainly take those into consideration.”

Ethan James, the vice president of external affairs with the Georgia Hospital Association, said Thursday that his group will review the rules.

“I would say we’re just seeking additional guidance and clarification about some of the language in the statute,” James said. “So if it tracks that closely, we may have some additional comments and questions.”

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Jill Nolin
Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.