The two public hearings on the proposed sale of the Colorado Health Foundation's 40% interest in the HealthOne joint venture to majority partner HCA, completed earlier today, included new demands for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to require more guarantees regarding low-income patients and keeping HealthOne's hospitals open.
More guarantees sought on HealthOne sale
In a letter to Suthers' office (PDF) and in comments made at the hearings last night and today, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy said it supported the foundation's desire to cash out its stake in HealthOne in order to concentrate on making healthcare-related grants. The center does not have an opinion on whether the $1.45 billion the foundation would receive under the deal is a fair price.
The center also urged Suthers to impose five conditions on the deal, four on HCA and one on the foundation. On HCA, the center urged the following conditions: eliminating a noncompete clause that would restrict the foundation; adjusting the dollar value of HCA's commitments on charity care, community benefits and other matters by medical inflation; guaranteeing that none of HealthOne's seven hospitals would be closed for at least 10 years; and giving the foundation six seats on an eight-member oversight board, rather than the proposed 4-4 split. The center also urged Suthers to require the foundation to report for at least three years on its investment advisers to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest. The center disclosed that it has received grants from the foundation.
Dede de Percin, executive director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said in an e-mail that her organization does not oppose the sale. The CCHI supports the law center's suggested conditions, noting that the lawyer who drew them up served until recently on the organization's board, de Percin wrote. The CCHI also would like to see the commitments to Medicaid and uninsured patients more clearly spelled out, de Percin added. The CCHI has received nearly $1.4 million in operating and other grants from the foundation since 2006, according to de Percin.
Other critics of the sale suggested in a 14-page position paper unveiled last night that losing the control that the foundation shares with Nashville-based HCA over the hospitals is not in the public interest and the price is not fair market value.
The foundation has argued that the sale would diversify its portfolio, allowing it to focus on making healthcare-related grants instead of helping to run a healthcare system with seven hospitals and 13 ambulatory surgery centers. The letter suggests that the joint venture could borrow money and make payments to its owners that would allow the foundation to cash out part of its investment and thereby diversify, yet still retain its oversight role.
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