State pushes hospitals to provide more financial information

JFK Medical Center already provides annual financial reports and a list of accepted health insurance providers.

David DeSantis held up the special plaque his parents got the day he arrived, the first baby born at Edison’s JFK Medical Center. Desantis is back this morning to help celebrate its 50th birthday.

He’s grown a lot, and so has the hospital from 206 to 499 beds. JFK Medical Center has kept its focus on maternal and child health care, and on Monday the hospital won five stars for its efforts — the 2017 HealthGrades Labor and Delivery Excellence Award.

The Associate Director for Quality Solutions at Healthgrades, Alicia Caroll, said this award places JFK, “among the top 10 percent in the nation.”

The award emphasizes excellence and also transparency, so patients can scroll through posted information on a hospital’s medical and financial performance.

“I would say it’s very important. Our analysis highlights choosing the right hospital and the right physician can be a matter of life and death for patients. We know that, nationally, if all hospitals performed at a five-star level, over 220,000 lives could potentially have been saved. Over 160,000 complications could’ve been potentially avoided,” said Carroll.

JFK’s website includes a complete list of the insurance carriers it accepts. Its annual financial report is available too.

“We put our financials online so you can look at our financial statements. We have an annual community meeting,” said President and CEO of JFK Health, Raymond Fredericks. “If you’re a community hospital, you should listen to the people in the community as to what they need.”

New Jersey’s Department of Health has developed regulations that require hospitals to be more transparent. Many, like JFK, are on board voluntarily. However, It’s not unanimous.

The state wants stricter financial disclosure from its 71 acute care hospitals: including annual audited and quarterly unaudited financial reports posted regularly on hospital websites; a list of participating insurance carriers; and annual community meetings to discuss economic issues, within 60 days of releasing yearly financial reports. Violations could incur fines of up to $100 a day.

The state website shows more than 50 of New Jersey’s acute care facilities already comply voluntarily with many of these disclosures. But, the New Jersey Hospital Association balked at some items, particularly quarterly audits, calling it, “administratively burdensome.”

Regarding annual public meetings on financials, it noted “state-mandated agenda topics do not attract attendees.”

Releasing any kind of data, financial or medical, can be a touchy topic for hospitals, says JFK’s Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President, Dr. William Oser. “I think what upsets us all is we all don’t get 100 on the test every time we have to submit our data,” he said. “Many times the initial requests for data are critical and don’t reflect well on a hospital, and nobody wants to look poor in their community. Sometimes the information’s being requested before a hospital’s had a chance to analyze itself.”

JFK is still growing and is planning to merge with Hackensack Meridian Health. Some 80 percent of New Jersey hospitals are now affiliated with corporate health care systems, making transparency more important than ever, advocates say. The state Department of Health is still reviewing comments on the proposed regulations.

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