Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

Two Minute Tips

Find health care systems’ local growth in EMMA

March 2, 2012

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Andrew Conte and Luis Fabregas of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wanted to know how much money hospitals were shelling out to build new facilities within a mile of existing ones. They saw the trend locally, but wondered how much hospitals nationwide were spending.

Emma is the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board online search tool that provides details about the municipal securities market. To get the national data they wanted, Andrew and Luis started searching by state using key words such as “hospital,” “health” and “medical or medicine,” Andrew says.

But to be sure they got all of the information, they contacted the board about getting raw data that could more easily be analyzed through an Excel spreadsheet. The board referred them to Thomson Reuters, which provided the data.

“The numbers I was pulling out were confirmed by the raw data,” Andrew says.

Andy Conte
Andy Conte

The data helped them find:

“From 2008 through Nov. 1, U.S. hospitals borrowed $144 billion through public bond issues for construction, refinancing, equipment and other expenses, the Tribune-Review found as part of a yearlong investigation into the rising cost of health care.

Pennsylvania ranks fourth in spending, the Trib analysis showed, and like the top two states – California and Texas – has no agency to regulate the need for hospital construction. Many hospitals are nonprofits competing for patients like big retail chains, and experts say it’s gone too far.”

Today’s Tip: Dig through EMMA, formally known as the Electronic Municipal Market Access system, to tally health care systems’ spending on growth in your area.

Luis Fabregas
Luis Fabregas

Andrew also suggests using EMMA to learn about upcoming bond-issuance meetings. He attended a meeting for a bond agency in Allegheny County and found no one aside from members usually attended.

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