Thursday, March 5, 2015

Press blasts the Mississippi Hospital Association

The Executive Director of the Mississippi Press Association blasted the Mississippi Hospital Association for its stance on a bill that would make public hospitals subject to public records laws and the Open Meetings Act.  Layne Bruce wrote:

Let’s get one thing straight. Problems that engulfed Singing River Health System are by no means indigenous to Jackson County.

One might think so, however, after a House committee voted this week to gut a transparency bill and make only Singing River accountable under the state’s Open Meetings and Public Records Acts.

It was a misguided action that, as one sharp editorial writer opined, amounts to putting a Band Aid on a severed artery.

Mississippi’s publicly owned hospitals have for decades enjoyed an exemption from the so-called sunshine laws that require government bodies and public institutions to be more transparent.

And, to be sure, many of these public hospitals operate successfully and beneficially to their patients and employees. Some even welcome the public and the media into their meetings without having to be told by law to do so.

Singing River, though, is the poster child for why all public hospitals should be accountable in this manner. After hiring a new audit firm in 2013, it was promptly determined the hospital’s employee pension fund had been woefully underfunded for years. The snafu left scores of employees fearful over their retirement savings. Lawsuits and recriminations have predictably followed.

But one need only look to Natchez, Batesville or Philadelphia for other recent examples of public hospitals behaving badly. In Natchez, the medical center filed for bankruptcy twice in just five years, leading to millions of dollars in losses while the public had no clue.

Meanwhile, in Ackerman, taxpayers in a county of fewer than 10,000 residents are on the hook for $22 million in loans for a new hospital. While decisions on this facility were made by Choctaw County supervisors before a hospital board was formed, local taxpayers deserve now to have a front row seat at hospital meetings in the future as a solution is sought for this tremendous debt burden.

Much more is needed to protect what is, by some measurements, the largest public investment in these communities. The anemic version of Senate Bill 2407 the House committee passed out on Tuesday certainly does not go far enough.

But even though there have been instances of terrible decision making at other public hospitals, the House Public Health and Human Services Committee decided only Singing River deserved to be put in the spotlight.

That’s patently absurd and very bad judgment for House members who stand for reelection this year. Their reticence to pass a broad version of this bill stands in sharp contrast to the unanimous vote it received in the Senate last month.

For its part, the Mississippi Hospital Association says public hospitals operate in competitive environments and, thus, deserve the shelter of being exempt from the open meetings law.

Well, public schools compete against private. We wouldn’t think of barring taxpayers or the press from city or county school board meetings.

MHA’s stance also glosses over the fact that openness is by far the default across the country. Mississippi is one of only a handful of states that bar access to public hospital meetings and records. Even states like Arkansas and Tennessee, often ranked no better than Mississippi in terms of transparency, allow access to public hospital meetings.

Taxpayers should be treated as stockholders in these public institutions and are entitled to more information about the decisions that govern them.

The straw man argument that too much sensitive information is discussed in a public hospital board meeting also doesn’t pass muster. Nothing in the bill would make patient records public information. Patients’ rights and confidentiality are thoroughly protected by this bill and by federal law.

What is good for the goose is good for the gander. All public hospitals should be accountable to the public under Mississippi law.

Transparency should apply to all of them, not just the hospitals that have been put in a corner for naughty behavior.
MHA CEO Tim Moore told the AP this week:
The Mississippi Hospital Association opposes making any hospital subject to transparency laws. The group's president and CEO, Tim Moore, said in a statement Tuesday that he appreciates the House committee's decision to limit the scope of the bill.

"The hospital association continues to support exclusion of public hospitals from the Open Meetings Act," Moore said. "This is not a stand against transparency but a stand to preserve a level playing field for public hospitals in a very competitive environment."

Read more here:

Make no mistake. Mr. Moore is lying through his teeth. What his associations wants is the right to have it both ways. He wants to be able to take your money for your hospitals but tell you to shut the hell up when it comes to knowing what they do with your money. The Senate bill protects patients rights and financial information that should remain confidential. However, these legitimate and serious compromises are not enough for our pampered prince over on Woodgreen Drive.   Mr. Moore spits in the faces of the taxpayers who OWN these hospitals and then tries to make like he is doing a favor. It gives a new meaning to the term "golden shower".


Anonymous said...

Legislators are hypocritical when they demand transparency from all other government officials except themselves. What about making all government meetings open??

Anonymous said...

Mississippi Republicans do not support transparency. They are all talk.

Anonymous said...

Thanks KF. Please stay on this. These posts do more than you realize.

Anonymous said...

Boy, the hospitals in this state have it good. Even though most are run by private management companies and funded at least partially by the counties in which they exist, they all enjoy immunity under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act -- which is only available to Mississippi's state government and political subdivisions. For anyone who knows anything about Mississippi's legal system, this is a HUGE benefit bestowed upon the hospitals -- shortened limitations period, lower caps on damages, discretionary function immunity, heightened notice requirements, etc. So they get that, but want exemption from the Public Records Act? Either they are private businesses, who should enjoy no governmental immunity from suit, or they are public bodies who should be required to as open and transparent as any other governmental entity -- at least by the letter of the law. Just my $0.02.

Anonymous said...

Hey 10:44 AM, these laws protecting public hospitals have been in place for decades. Parties are not responsible for their creation; lazy, life-long politicians and special interests are.

Anonymous said...

Gunn supports Missisisppi hospitals. Great leadership coming from the Speaker's office not Tate's office. Thank you Speaker Gunn for protecting hospitals.

Anonymous said...

Our healthcare laws are authored by the MHA, not legislators. Its that simple.

Anonymous said...

Any government board should be open to the public. What's up with the legislature giving rural hospitals grants "not to exceed $10 Million" (see link) but yet they won't let the public go to a hospitals board meeting? I can go to my school board meeting. Why can't I go to my hospital's board meeting if they are a government body? Wonder how much of this $10Million is going to find its way back to someone's campaign fund? Maybe one of the requirements should be if a hospital takes this money it should have to completely follow the states open meetings laws.

Anonymous said...

T. Moore is also working secretly to get the legislature guarantee him state funding for an HMO to compete with the private sector. Scary how successful this FOX is with conning legislators into letting him GUARD the Medicaid HENHOUSE.

Anonymous said...

... these laws protecting public hospitals have been in place for decades.

And when presented with any opportunity to change the calculus for the better the Mississippi Republicans of today, who control the legislative process, instead decided to protect the status quo and therefore now are responsible for its preservation.

Anonymous said...

Read no more. 11:23 states the major issues .

Anonymous said...

Well, things may change in next year's legislative session after you see Chris Anderson (CEO of MBMC) indicted. These men blocking transparency wil have some explaining to do. SRHS has a $250,000,000+ problem.

Anonymous said...

I hope the SRH issue can be resolved for all concerned. Someone needs to pay for all the problems this hospital has at this time. The past and present members of administration need to face charges. The retirement issue is a disgrace, and has cause so much stress for all retirees, current staff, and former employees, as well as Jackson county . Need I say transparency is needed for all hospitals in our state.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys. Check out the statement that SRHS sent yesterday on the House version of the bill. This statement may make it tough for Jackson Cnty Rs in the House to vote for the bill on the floor.

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

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There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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