State monitoring CarePoint’s finances, including weekly meetings, in wake of report

One of the most highly-scrutinized for-profit health systems in the state, CarePoint Health, has become a priority for the state Department of Health to monitor — with weekly meetings taking place following a State Commission on Investigations report released March 20.

The report highlighted unusual financial operations by CarePoint owners Vivek Garipalli, James Lawler and Jeffrey Mandler — the latter of which was CEO from 2015 to 2018.

Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal told legislators at budget hearing Thursday the department is in touch on a weekly basis with CarePoint to monitor the system’s financial health.

The trio pulled the hospitals out of bankruptcy a decade ago, after which the hospitals have been under consistent criticism for a heavy reliance on emergency room visits for admissions to the hospital (at or near 90 percent), as well as a heavy reliance on Medicare (between 40 to 60 percent per hospital) and among the highest rates charged to Medicare in the country.

The report in March asked for more oversight from the DOH, and suggested developing new rules for greater transparency.

“The SCI recommends that DOH closely examine the financial and related information set forth in this report during its development of new transparency rules with respect to oversight and review,” according to the report.

In a statement, a CarePoint spokeswoman said the weekly meeting were welcome by the hospital system.

“With regard to the ‘weekly meetings’ referenced by Commissioner Elnahal, those were initiated as much by CarePoint as the DOH in an effort to assist with fostering even greater transparency,” the statement said.

“As noted in our original statement on the SCI report, we said we would be working with the DOH to help strengthen transparency and reporting protocols.”

Legislators have also said they are looking into reviving a bill that Gov. Chris Christie had vetoed that would have created greater state access to for-profit systems’ financial information.