When the American Hospital Association board of trustees meets in Florida April 5-9, it will address for the first time the controversial issue of not-for-profit hospital conversions, MODERN HEALTHCARE has learned.
The board's actions in the matter may include adopting a new policy opposing any federal oversight of not-for-profit hospital sales.
State laws opening up transactions involving not-for-profit hospitals to public scrutiny and state legal review are sweeping the country (See related stories, pages 2, 12 and 16).
Over the past several weeks, AHA staffers have been meeting with the association's nine regional policy boards to develop a "voluntary code of conduct . . . on what kind of things you do when a hospital changes ownership," said Richard Wade, the AHA's senior vice president for communications.
Among the issues that would be addressed in such a code are how much say the community should have about a change in hospital ownership and the responsibility of the hospital's board in ensuring that the deal is properly valued and resulting sales proceeds are used appropriately.
Another issue brought before the regional policy boards was the role of the federal government in regulating hospital conversions, Wade said.
"If there is to be any kind of government regulation, it needs to be at the community and state level," he said.
While the AHA has stopped short of denouncing the conversions bill introduced by Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-Calif.), Wade did say that "everything we are hearing from our members indicates that any federal involvement would be chaotic."
The Stark bill would give HHS the right to determine if a for-profit hospital paid a fair price when purchasing a not-for-profit facility.
Because of the potential for pitting hospital sectors against one another, the AHA has been hesitant to address the issue of conversions given its membership of both for-profit and not-for-profit hospitals.
But Wade said it was "clear that the interest in this is high," based on meetings with the regional policy boards. "This is a controversial area, but we believe we will see much more of this . . . so we know we can't walk away from it."