DCH conflict-of-interest bill advances

A House panel Thursday approved a bill that targets potential conflicts of interest on the Georgia Department of Community Health board.

The original HB 913 was amended before the vote to make sure medical professionals, such as physicians and dentists, were not precluded from serving on the DCH board, whose nine members are appointed by the governor.

Rep. Trey Kelley
Rep. Trey Kelley

The lead sponsor of the legislation, though, acknowledged Thursday that the bill may affect current DCH board members.

State Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) told GHN that “some could be affected” because of their status.

Among people who would be barred from serving are those who have an “ownership interest” in a company that “provides medical staffing services to an entity that is licensed or regulated” by DCH.

At least one current board member would appear to be affected under that wording. Richard Jackson is the chairman and CEO of Jackson Healthcare in Alpharetta, which provides hospitals with physicians, nurses and allied health professionals.

Hospitals are regulated by the DCH’s Healthcare Facility Regulation division.

Jackson has been active in backing the legislative attempt to reform the medical malpractice system in Georgia. He has also pushed for privatization of most of the state’s child welfare/foster care system.

A spokeswoman for Jackson said Thursday that any questions about the DCH board should be referred to the agency’s commissioner. An agency spokeswoman could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

The House General Government Subcommittee of Governmental Affairs easily approved the amended version of HB 913, which now goes to the full Governmental Affairs Committee for consideration.

The Governmental Affairs chairwoman, Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta), said she wants to examine this version of the bill more closely before commenting on it.

Kelley said HB 913 was not drafted to address any specific problem with conflicts of interest among DCH board members. He described the bill as part of an overall effort at the General Assembly to make government more transparent.

Besides regulating health facilities, Community Health also runs the Medicaid and PeachCare programs in the state, and operates the State Health Benefit Plan that covers state employees and educators.

A separate Senate bill would require that at least one of the nine Community Health board members also be an active member of the health benefit plan.

Changes in the plan that started Jan. 1 have sparked a wave of criticism by teachers and others over a lack of choice of insurers and plan types.