Update at 1:30 PM: Bill just passed with some changes. The bill will only apply to Jackson County. Changes will be on House website soon.
Will the Mississippi Hospital Association protect Singing River? SB #2407 will end the exemptions that public hospitals currently enjoy from the Open Meetings Act and other public records laws. It passed the Senate on a unanimous vote. However, the bill may die in committee in the House as it has yet to be brought up for a vote. The Sun-Herald reported today:
The Mississippi Hospital Association for the second year in a row is on the verge of killing a bill that would open the Singing River Health System and other public hospital boards to more scrutiny.
If the state House Public Health and Human Services committee doesn't send the bill to the House by the end of the day Tuesday, it will die, said Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, the bill's chief author.
It passed the Senate on Feb. 21 on a 51-0 vote.
Wiggins said committee Chairman Sam Mims, R-McComb, told him he hasn't decided if he will call a meeting to deal with the bill.
"The Hospital Association, the hospitals, are literally standing in the way of the voters, standing in the way of transparency," Wiggins said. He said he wants to see a vote in the House because "those members who vote against it need to be held accountable." Rest of article.
But never fear, the Hospital Association wants you to know they have your best interests at heart:
"Hospitals in Mississippi support the Open Meetings Act with exemptions for public hospitals," said Hospital Association President and CEO Tim Moore in an email. "These exemptions for public hospitals were put into law in 1984 due to the sensitive patient information that hospitals maintain. (HIPAA privacy laws were not even in place at the time, which now creates even more urgency for protections.) The exemptions were also put in place because public hospitals work much differently from other public entities in the state as they operate in a competitive business environment. Hospitals are already providing financial information that is available to the public, and the costs to hire attorneys and personnel to handle the notices, website updates, emergency procedures, and liability concerns would be devastating financially."Hogwash. Financial statements and actuarial reports on pensions are not violations of patient privacy or business practices and Moore damn well knows it. If anything, public hospitals enjoy greater privacy protections than most hospitals. One can at least obtain the tax returns on nonprofit hospitals (Such as St. Dominic and MBMC). Such information is "protected" under our current laws from disclosure by public hospitals.
Well, here the lobbyists for MHA and the compensation paid in 2014:
Shannon Coker ($15,388)
Timothy Moore ($171,420)
Tim Roberson ($32,000)
Daniel Harrison ($9,546. Cheapskate) and the big Dick himself:
Stephen Dickson ($440, 133)
TOTAL: $668,488. That is what the Mississippi Hospital Association spends in one year to kill bills such as this one. Lets take a look at what SB #2407 actually says about protecting the privacy of hospitals:
(4) A public body may hold an executive session pursuant to this section for one or more of the following reasons:
(a) Transaction of business and discussion of personnel matters relating to the job performance, character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of a person holding a specific position, or matters concerning the recruitment of potential physician employees or physician partners by a public hospital....(j) Transaction of business and discussions or negotiations regarding the location, relocation or expansion of a business or an industry, and the recruitment of physicians or formation of partnerships with health care professionals before the health care professional or health care professional group is employed by or contracts with the public hospital......(3) Trade secrets and confidential commercial and financial information of a proprietary nature developed by a college * * *, university or public hospital
4) Records of a public hospital board relating to the purchase or sale of medical or other practices or other business operations, and the recruitment of physicians and other health care professionals, shall be exempt from the provisions of this chapter while the recruiting or negotiation is ongoing, but the records shall be available upon execution of an employment agreement or contract. Read the bill for yourself.
The bill states it does not conflict with federal privacy laws such as HIPPA as well. Mr. Moore of the Mississippi Hospital Association knows this full good and well but he is only interested in killing the bill, not helping the taxpayers of Mississippi. Representative Sam Mill is the Chairman of the Committee on Public Health. He did not return phone calls or messages seeking comment.