No delay: Nonprofit hospitals must disclose financial data soon

Georgia’s nonprofit hospitals will still have to disclose extensive financial data by Oct. 1, even though state regulations on this new requirement won’t be finished by then, state officials say.

A disclosure law, passed by the General Assembly early this year, requires reporting of executive compensation and the financial holdings of hospitals, among other information.

The state is still developing regulations on how the law will be implemented. But Ryan Loke, chief health care policy adviser to Gov. Brian Kemp, said, “It’s expected that hospitals should be prepared to comply with the statute by October 1, with any clarifying rules and regs promulgated by [the Georgia Department of Community Health] as we work through them this fall.’’

The Georgia Hospital Association and the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, citing the administrative burden and “vague” terminology in the law, had suggested their own set of regulations in July “to implement the law in a fair and reasonable manner.’’ But Kemp aides said they would be the ones to craft the rules.

Those rules are expected to be released next month. But meanwhile, the Kemp administration is sending a clear message that nonprofit hospitals still face the Oct. 1 deadline — now just two weeks away — when they will have to report financial information.

“We’re doing everything we can to comply with the law as it was passed,’’ said Jimmy Lewis of HomeTown Health, an association of rural hospitals in the state.

House Bill 321 was passed after considerable opposition from some hospitals.

It requires nonprofit hospitals to report data such as:

** Audited financial information, including charity care provided, on the hospital’s website.

** Financial information about a hospital’s affiliates and subsidiaries

** All property holdings of the hospital, including the location and size, purchase price and current use

** Ownership or interest the nonprofit hospital has in any joint venture, partnership, subsidiary, holding company or captive insurance company, and related financial information

** Any bonded indebtedness, outstanding loans, and bond defaults

** Salaries and fringe benefits for the 10 highest-paid administrative positions in the hospital.

Failure to comply could halt state health care funding to a hospital, a potentially crippling penalty.

The Georgia Hospital Association said Monday that it has provided feedback to nonprofit members “regarding an efficient manner in which to comply with the new laws while we await the promulgation of the official regulations.’’

“We appreciate the Kemp administration’s efforts in translating such a complex issue into a discernible measure,’’ said Ethan James, a GHA executive.

State Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin), who pushed for House Bill 321, told GHN recently that legislators recognize that “some nonprofit hospitals are hurting and barely surviving.” The communities that these hospitals serve should know the extent of the facilities’ financial problems in order to provide help, he said.

“On the other hand, you’ve got nonprofit hospitals that are making lots of money,’’ Hatchett added. “There are those that are amassing huge amounts of cash.’’

Nonprofit hospitals get a tax exemption, he noted, and receive substantial payments from taxpayer-funded programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.