As one of a small number of America's best-known healthcare economists, longtime Princeton University professor Uwe Reinhardt brings more than just a broad perspective about industry trends to his seats on the boards of for-profit Triad Hospitals and not-for-profit Duke University Health System. In an era where governing boards are under intense scrutiny, his biggest asset might be among his most basic-knowledge of corporate finance and accounting.
"That's really been more my role than anything else," says Reinhardt, who has taught economics at Princeton since 1968. "I tend to wind up on every audit committee. I use less of my skills in health policy than my skills as a teacher of accounting and finance. It's really the business side of me."
Despite what he calls a penchant for focusing on nuts-and-bolts accounting in his oversight roles, Reinhardt says he believes his background also helps him spot key developments, anticipate policy problems and deal with important trends. Among his fellow Triad board members is Nancy-Ann DeParle, a former administrator of HCFA, predecessor agency to the CMS. "Even on such things as pay-for-performance, we've been writing papers about it, when they (other board members) have just been reading about it," Reinhardt says.
"What we contribute," he adds, "is that we know the policy scene in Washington, and we can read signals there."
The practical-minded economist has served since May 1999 on the board of Triad, which operates 53 hospitals in 15 states. He joined the board of the Duke health system, based in Durham, N.C., in 1997 and was appointed in 2001 to the university's board.
Aside from basic regulatory requirements, Reinhardt says, he doesn't see a lot of difference between the roles and responsibilities of the boards at Triad, an investor-owned company, and Duke, a prominent not-for-profit academic healthcare system.
"To me, the concerns about revenues, about a positive bottom line and about the uninsured, are all very similar," he says. "What's different in the not-for-profit (sector) is that you don't have to file quarterly reports, or give guidance (to Wall Street). When you make a decision, you don't have to discuss what it will do to earnings per share, or what you will tell Wall Street."