(Host) A citizens’ panel that reviews hospital budgets in Vermont is asking some tough questions. They want more information in the wake of allegations that the state’s largest hospital tried to circumvent state oversight.
VPR’s John Dillon has more.
(Dillon) The Public Oversight Commission met Wednesday for the first time since the allegations surfaced about Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. The hospital’s former financial officer has testified that he was ordered to keep a $55 million parking garage off the books and away from state regulators.
The Public Oversight Commission makes recommendations on hospital budgets. It’s an annual exercise and as the members gathered in a Montpelier conference room, it was clear the Fletcher Allen case was high on their list of concerns. Chairman David Yacovone told the commission that it faces a new challenge:
(Yacovone) “If ever there were a time to have more public scrutiny it’s probably now. How do we fulfill our obligation, when we’re undermanned and understaffed and we all have other responsibilities? It’s not going to be easy.”
(Dillon) Yacovone said in an interview that he’s read the testimony given by David Cox, the former Fletcher Allen executive who said hospital official misled regulators.
(Yacovone) “I have a lot of dismay over what’s occurred. I also know that this is an incredibly important asset is this state.”
(Dillon) The questions about Fletcher Allen come as all 14 Vermont hospitals prepare their budgets for review. The Public Oversight Commission learned Wednesday that hospital budgets are expected to rise 9.5% next year, for a total cost of $1.6 billion. All the hospitals want rate increases for 2003.
Commission member Glenn Gershanek of Montpelier says he wants more detailed information, including the salaries of top hospital administrators.
(Gershanek) “I think that it’s important for us to be able to look at how, say in the Fletcher Allen case in particular, how the compensation contracts were structured. Is there a bonus clause that says that you get paid more if you get a project done more quickly? If so, is that one of the instigations for the conduct that was alleged in regard to the certificate of need process? I think this is important information and we may be the only people allowed to ask it outside the legal system.”
(Dillon) Several members of the public also submitted detailed questions for the commission to ask Fletcher Allen. Commission Chairman Yacovone said he may want to put more time in the schedule later this month to review the Fletcher Allen budget.
The commission makes recommendations on hospital budgets to the state. The final decision is up to the Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.