Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dishonesty and the Marion County Health and Hospital Corporation

Daniel Lee of the Indianapolis Star has a good article regarding the non-descript and deceptive Wishard ballot question that has been discussed on the blogs the past few days:

You'd never guess Wishard wants to build a new $754 million hospital complex based on the ballot question that will decide the issue.

Marion County voters heading to the polls Nov. 3 will read a ballot question on whether to approve financing for the proposed hospital -- but that question provides no information about project financing.

No mention of the estimated cost.

No mention of the expected debt level of roughly $613 million.

The ballot question doesn't even say that Wishard expects to complete the project with no need for additional tax money.

Instead, the three-part question, posted at, says the project would allow Wishard to provide health care, including specialized services such as high-level trauma and burn treatments, to all county residents, regardless of ability to pay, and would help train future doctors, nurses and other health workers.

"Shall the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana, issue bonds or enter into a lease to finance safe, efficient and functional facilities for the Wishard Hospital project," the question begins.

"Voting against it would be like voting against motherhood, apple pie," said Bert Rockman, professor and head of the political science department at Purdue University. "It's basically wording that is biased heavily toward the project."

To which, Matt Gutwein, Chief Executive Officer of Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, which runs Wishard answers: "We in conjunction with the (county) auditor tried to be very careful and meticulous in providing a description of the project."

How stupid does Gutwein think we are?

Let's recap some of HHC-MC's dishonesty thus far:

Unbeknownst to virtually anyone, HHC-MC has been using our tax dollars to buy up nursing homes throughout the state, putting Marion County taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars should those publicly-funded investments fail.

In the special session of the legislature, HHC-MC had its lobbyists insert into a voluminous budget bill, a special provision allowing them to call for a special election in the fall of 2009, knowing that the turnout would be so low as to almost ensure passage. This special election could have easily been put off until are regular election when a good size of the electorate shows up. HHC-MC wanted nothing to do with regular voters deciding this issue.

In the 2009 bill allowing HHC-MC to do the special election, the municipal corporation's lobbyists included special language put in that allows HHC-MC to avoid putting any financial information into the referendum question that normally guide the voters in other referendums.

Now, HHC-MC, apparently, according to Gutwein, with the cooperation of elected Marion County Auditor Billie Breaux, wrote an intentionally deceptive referendum question that fails to mention HHC-MC intends to build a new hospital, no mention of the cost, and no mention of the debt level that is being undertaken.

The sad thing is, HHC-MC had a good argument to make, and could well have succeeded in a fair referendum (with a question that honestly described the project, including fiscal impact) in a regular election year. Instead the HHC-MC and Wishard folks chose a much more dishonest approach that calls into question its leaders' credibility on so many issues.


jabberdoodle said...

Sad to say, you are right on point here. They did a disservice to their credibility and to the public referendum itself.

Again, I would like to know which Legislator(s) crafted and inserted the referendum format at the 11th hour of the special session. Voters have a right to consider their worthiness for reelection.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Jabber, unless it was added in committee, you might never know. You'd have to assume the author of the bill.