Union, consumer activists call for tighter scrutiny of N.J. hospital deals
Union and consumer activists announced a campaign Tuesday to strengthen non-profit hospitals, as the number of for-profit purchases of New Jersey hospitals accelerates.
Spurred by recent announcements that Prime Healthcare Services plans to buy two distressed urban hospitals — St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic and St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark — the group called for tougher state scrutiny of such deals. It wants the state to impose strict conditions on such sales and stronger enforcement of those conditions.
“People are passionate about their community hospitals,” said Paul Bellan-Boyer of Jersey City, leader of a coalition called Save Christ Hospital, formed when Prime planned to buy that hospital last year. Prime pulled out of that deal after a series of questions from the state Attorney General, and cited community opposition as the reason.
“When light shines on a bad deal, the problems appear, and people can make better choices about public policy,” Bellan-Boyer said.
State Sen. Joseph Vitale, who joined the telephone news conference, said he had “an immediate concern about what Prime’s business model looks like in New Jersey.”
Beyond that, he said, he hopes to call “a series of hearings to look deeply into the for-profit phenomenon, and the different models they employ,” with particular attention to whether insurance contracts are honored, poor people have access to care, and increases in the cost of care.
Last year, Governor Christie vetoed a bill that would have required for-profit companies to disclose the same financial information that non-profits do. State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, plans to push for an override of the veto, Jason Redd, a member of her staff, told the group.
Among the other groups participating in the campaign are Citizen Action, the Appleseed Public Interest Law Group, Health Professionals and Allied Employees Union, and Committee of Interns and Residents.
BY LINDY WASHBURN