Thursday, December 18, 2014

Enforcing AG's agreements with hospital systems

Bruce Mohl at Commonwealth Magazine reports that the state of Massachusetts has started "to assess $1,000-a-week fines on Steward Health Care for failing to turn over to regulators the company’s audited financial statements, with the current tab standing at $12,000"  This story is the latest chapter dating back to August.  Back then I made a suggestion:

Back in October 2010, when the Attorney General recommended approval of Steward's takeover of the Caritas Christi hospital system, she was able to get the following agreement: 

"Steward, and any successor-in-interest to Steward, will, notwithstanding its for-profit status, fully cooperate with any investigation, inquiry, study, report, or evaluation conducted by the Attorney General under her oversight authority of the non-profit charitable hospital industry to the same extent and subject to the same protections and privileges as if Steward were a public charity." 

So all it takes is for the Attorney General to announce to Steward that she wants this information as part of a joint study with CHIA.  Perhaps she will make that offer to CHIA.

The Attorney General is the lawyer for state agencies.  Why her office is not mentioned in the current story as supporting CHIA in this regard is problematic. This seems to be part of pattern of inability to enforce, in that Steward has also acted to close one of its acquired hospitals (Quincy Medical Center) before the allowed period stated in the agreement.

If this simple set of commitments can't be enforced by the AG, imagine how difficult it will be to enforce the much more complicated proposed settlement with Partners Healthcare System.  I hope the AG-elect is watching closely and is learning the lesson, and chooses to withdraw the PHS agreement from the Court.


Anonymous said...

The $1000/week fine is laughably small - barely equal to a couple of hours of their attorney fees! - and thus likely to be ineffective. Let's hope the AG steps in, or institutions in similar circumstances will quickly learn that agreements that they make with the AG office can be ignored.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, but then Steward is already ignoring the AG and the agreement they made with her and they probably toss the bill for the $1000/wk fine into the pile with those from other vendors they are ignoring. I would seem that she is on her way out the door and that they must have better and more powerful political connection backing them up.