Thursday, August 14, 2008

LETTER: Did NewsLanc properly research LGH information?

Your claims of poor transparency for Lancaster General Hospital are off the mark.

There are several free online sources of information which the public can turn for information about LGH. There's certainly more information available about LGH than Lancaster’s two for-profit hospitals, or its very profitable, privately held companies.

LGH annually files a public statement of revenues and expenditures, basically what it did with its money for the year (IRS 990s available on

LGH annually publishes a report about the tens of millions it spends of Lancaster's healthcare money in outreach to the community and payments to the city and SDOL ( – search for "community benefit")

LGH's charges, financial performance, infection, mortality and complication rates are
published every year online (Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council -

Ratings and comparisons of LGH's quality with other hospitals are published online (,,,, etc.)

How many other industries have as many independent private and public sources of transparency information in circulation? Was it that you didn’t know these sources existed, or did you opt to ignore them?


by Doug McVay, Director of Research

We used all of them. Actually LGH was late in getting their most recent 990 posted to Guidestar, which is why I had to get it directly from John Lines.

The writer is correct that the PHC4 has reports listing hospital charges for various procedures. The problem is that "charges" don't reflect what people pay, which confuses consumers. Those reports also give rates of infection and mortality for hospitals, which would arguably be more useful if the information were current instead of being a year or two old when published.

If there is any transparency in hospital finance in PA it is because of the state legislature and the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4), not because hospitals here are open or forthcoming. Pennsylvania, specifically the PHC4, was praised by the New York Times on June 14, 2007 ("In Health Care, Cost Isn't Proof of High Quality") for being at the forefront of trying to bring about some transparency in healthcare costs:

"Pennsylvania is the first state to make such information, normally closely guarded by the hospitals and the insurers, available to everyone — including patients who may never see their hospital bills or be aware of how their hospitals compare with others in the state."

The New York Times article talks about the Coronary Arterial Bypass Graft Report which PHC4 released. That one not only listed charges, it also listed average payments from commercial and government insurers. The PHC4 does not provide that additional information about other procedures, presumably because they can't get it.