Famed healthcare economist Uwe Reinhardt, who serves as a paid director on the board of a for-profit hospital chain, has been named to lead a special commission in New Jersey that will examine that state's supply of hospitals.
Reinhardt said he serves on the boards of Triad Hospitals, Medicaid managed-care plan Amerigroup Corp. and Boston Scientific Corp., but none of those directorships poses conflict-of-interest issues. The Commission on Rationalizing Health Care Resources "is not focused on reimbursement, which could be a conflict if we were to make recommendations," he said.
In terms of his relationship with Triad, Reinhardt noted that it is a company based in the Southwest that does not compete with New Jersey hospitals and has no plans to expand into the Northeast.
"Obviously, being on the board of a hospital (company), I know something about hospital management," he said. "I've never heard of any major for-profit hospitals thinking they are going to run hospitals in either New Jersey or New York for the reason that the margins are just crummy. There couldn't possibly be a conflict."
His relationship didn't seem to bother the New Jersey Hospital Association, which has one for-profit hospital and one pending.
"The choice of Uwe Reinhardt is significant and good," said Ron Czajkowski, a spokesman for the NJHA. "He has a big-picture view. Being a healthcare economist, he knows what is going on nationally as well as having a streetwise perspective being a New Jerseyan."
The commission will seek to ensure there is accountability of public funds.