In the wake of an investigation showing how felons and inept businessmen have taken over hospitals in rural Texas, the state Senate last week passed a bill that would help protect those hospitals from shady operators.
The legislation would:
- Allow the state to impose heavier fines on hospitals that run afoul of safety regulations and to temporarily take over mismanaged facilities that face closure;
- Require disclosure of hospital owners of as little as 5 percent of a hospital. The current standard is 25 percent; and
- Require criminal background checks for prospective hospital owners
The legislation comes in the wake of reporting into ownership issues at hospitals conducted by Miles Moffeit of the Dallas Morning News.
Miles found that in Texas — and throughout the country — virtually anyone can take over a hospital. He found some who were running hospitals that bungled the job and also found felons who were overseeing hospitals.
Texas is among at least 35 states that conduct no background checks on license applicants, The News found. Ten states mandate checks for criminal histories. Five states require education or credentials for top administrators.
In recent years the Texas Department of State Health Services, which regulates hospitals, has unsuccessfully asked lawmakers for more latitude to investigate their owners.
The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown.
The bill still must be approved by the House.