Hospitals Make $120 Billion While Skirting Federal Transparency Law
April 11, 2022
Three of the largest for-profit hospital chains in the U.S. made a combined $120 billion in 2021, while violating federal transparency laws, according to an investigation by Patient Rights Advocate.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Affordable Care Act required hospitals to be transparent about what they charge patients.
The Hospital Price Transparency Rule requires providers to post prices for their medical services online in a “machine-readable standard charges list for all items and services for all payers and plans” as well as a “standard charges list or price estimator tool for the 300 most common shoppable services,” according to the report.
The idea was to promote competition between hospitals, thereby lowering prices.
The Patient Rights Advocate report found that only 14 percent of the 1,000 hospitals reviewed were compliant with these regulations, and only 0.5 percent of hospitals owned by the three largest U.S. hospital systems – HCA Healthcare, CommonSpirit Health, and Ascension – were compliant.
None of the HCA Healthcare system’s 118 hospitals were compliant, the report found, and those three large systems made a combined $120 billion (page 3).
Open The Books studied the largest non-profit health care providers in the country in 2019 and found that their revenues and assets continued to grow as consumer prices skyrocketed, all while receiving tax breaks for their “non-profit” status.
Patient Rights Advocate found that the cost to companies to comply with these transparency regulations would be $12,000 per hospital.
Why are hospitals so reluctant to post their prices? Fear of competition may play a role. If hospitals followed the law, consumers might shop around to find the best deals on their medical procedures.
The U.S. needs to enforce its laws to ensure hospitals are being transparent in their pricing, since they won’t voluntarily obey the law.
U.S. Spends $10 Million Funded by Taxpayers to Demolish Alaskan Hotel
April 12, 2022
Congress just gave the city of Fairbanks, Alaska $10 million to tear down its abandoned Polaris Hotel.
The funding came in the form of an earmark from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in the FY2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act.
Earmarks were previously banned because of their tendency to promote wasteful spending on pet projects in members’ states and districts. Earmarks were reinstated in 2021 with broad bipartisan support.
The Polaris building was built in 1951 and was renovated as recently as 1996. Serving as a hotel, it became vacant in 2002 and is covered with asbestos, mold, and green fungus, according to KTVF, NBC Fairbanks.
It has been sitting abandoned since. The City of Fairbanks, Mayor Jim Matherly, and a specially formed “Polaris Working Group” have been lobbying for funding to demolish the building for years, according to Anchorage Daily News.
In a press release, Sen. Murkowski claims the building, “poses significant health and safety risks to the Fairbanks community,” and this funding is necessary to make the community safer. But if it’s that much of a safety hazard, why couldn’t the City of Fairbanks foot the bill?
Earmarks are the currency of corruption. They provide a surefire way to get broad consensus for massive spending bills, because every representative and senator goes back to their district or state and brags about the money they brought in for their constituents, while the money goes to pet projects for the well connected.
You can explore Open the Books’ earmark database here.
NYC Spends $111 Million to Oversee Horrific Prison Conditions
April 13, 2022
After a series of lawsuits in the 1970s detailing reports of horrid conditions for inmates in New York City’s prison system, a New York judge appointed third-party monitors to review and improve conditions in the prison system.
Forty years and at least $111 million later, conditions in the prison system are still abysmal, according to a report from the New York Post.
The Office of Compliance Consultants is one of at least 11 federal or state appointed monitors charged with independent oversight of the prison system, to fix abysmal conditions in public housing and investigate racist practices in the NYPD and FDNY.
One would hope that after all this time and money, there would be improvement in the conditions of these prisons. Sadly, its seems like it was all for naught.
The Legal Aid Society, a group that represents the plaintiffs in a lawsuit, allege that the conditions are still horrific, the NY Post reports.
“People in custody are living in filth and darkness, and as a result of massive neglect and mismanagement, the jails and the people confined in them are in crisis,” the Society wrote to a judge in the fall.
The Post also reported use of excessive force on juveniles and inadequate healthcare for those with mental illness. Last year, 16 people died in Department of Correction custody, more than the 2019 and 2020 combined, The Post reported.
Outside of collecting checks, it doesn’t appear these monitors are doing much good.
The current plan to address the prison system’s shortcomings was proffered by former Mayor Bill de Blasio: to shut down one of the greatest offenders, the Rikers Island prison complex, and spend $9 billion to replace it with four smaller jails.
Throwback Thursday: In 1987, OMB Spent $1.5 Million to Gild Its Offices
April 14, 2022
In 1987, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget spent $611,623 — $1.5 million in 2022 dollars — to cover in gold, or “gild,” a room in the old Executive Office Building.
Sen. William Proxmire, a former Democrat from Wisconsin, awarded the Office of Management and Budget a Golden Fleece Award for this wasteful spending.
According to Proxmire’s press release, the project started out reasonably enough.
The General Services Administration was renovating the old Executive Office Building, and refurbished three libraries, a rotunda, and four domes at a cost of $400,000.
Then, like many government projects, spending got out of hand. The OMB spent $611,623 to gild a rarely used room in case of “ceremonial functions and conferences,” the senator said.
It then made plans to gild six more rooms, including the director’s office, but soon cancelled them once Sen. Proxmire’s office started investigating.
Sen. Proxmire sent a small team of his staffers to survey the work. They confirmed that the gilding in the first room “was indeed beautiful,” and admired the designs planned for the OMB director’s personal office, but “as taxpayers themselves, they came away wondering why the work needed to be done,” Proxmire said.
After requesting documents on how the additional rooms would be used, who would occupy them, and what the historical significance of the rooms was, the GSA reported that the project had been deferred.
This story is an example of the powerful impact of oversight. Sometimes, just asking questions is enough to stop wasteful bureaucrats dead in their tracks.
Maryland Schools Spend $1 Million on Anti-Racism Consultants
April 15, 2022
An increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in schools has led to exorbitant spending on outside consulting groups to implement diversity training.
In Maryland, Montgomery County Public Schools paid the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium, an equity consulting group, over $1 million since 2020 to implement an anti-racism curriculum in their schools, according to an investigation from Parents Defending Education.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that, while spending on diversity, equity and inclusion training for kids has skyrocketed, test scores have gone down.
Literacy readiness in Montgomery County has dropped 30 to 40 percent since 2020, and only 54 percent of high school students test at or above a proficient level for reading.
Former Montgomery County school administrator Dee Reuben told the Free Beacon, “Parents are livid. I hear this every day — parents are afraid to speak out because they're afraid of the repercussions that will happen to their kids. Academics is going down the tube, and I think that is a shame considering we were one of the top school systems around — it breaks my heart.”
One of the projects that the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium has sponsored is a survey emailed to parents, asking, “To what extent does [Montgomery County Public Schools] support racial equity and disrupt systemic racism through its policies, procedures, structures, and practices?”
It also asks if parents think their children should be taught to “recognize, understand and interrupt racism,” according to the Free Beacon.
One thing everyone should agree on is that consulting firms shouldn’t be able to charge millions in taxpayer dollars meant for education while students’ grades suffer.
The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.