Conflict of Interest on Boston Globe’s Op-Ed Page?

Former Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation president Michael Widmer has this op-ed piece in today’s Boston Globe.

Watchdog overreaches on Children’s expansion


ONE OF the iron laws of public policy is that regulatory agencies have an irresistible tendency to push the limits of their power and authority. Whether it’s the environment, transportation, or health care, the agency seems compelled to prove the purpose of its existence by reaching ever further into the regulatory arena.

We saw a classic example of that recently when the Health Policy Commission inserted itself into Boston Children’s Hospital’s determination of need application to upgrade its facilities. This is the first time that the HPC has chosen to comment on a determination of need application, and it did it 10 months after the hospital first submitted its application to the Department of Public Health, which had launched an extensive public process with widespread commentary and analysis.


Widmer further states that “the Health Policy Commission should never have inserted itself into the process in the first place.”

But others say the Globe should never have inserted Widmer into the op-ed page – at least not without full disclosure.

An opponent of the Children’s expansion sent us this:

[Widmer] chastised the Health Policy Commission for scrutinizing the largest hospital expansion proposal in state history. HPC is supposed to help control health care costs in the Commonwealth, so of course it would raise objections to this unnecessary proposal. Then, Widmer did not disclose his own role with the hospital. The Globe should be more careful, and the hospital should be more honest.


Widmer’s role with Children’s? He’s listed on the hospital’s website as a member of its Board Committee for Community Service.




In addition, there’s this comment attached to the web version of Widmer’s op-ed:

Mike Widmer is on the Board of Children’s Hospital. Printing this column is wrong. Given the Globe’s revenue struggles, it could have charged Children’s for ad space here.

Either very sloppy, or a serious breach of ethics by both the Globe and Widmer– or maybe both.


We’ve sent an email to Editorial Page Editor Ellen Clegg asking for a response. As always, we’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE: As the irrepressible Alex Beam notes, I failed to mention the Children’s ad on page 3 of today’s Globe.




Well, that closes the circle, eh?

3 Responses to Conflict of Interest on Boston Globe’s Op-Ed Page?

  1. John Lynch says:

    “That closes the circle” is a nice way to put it. Widmer employs Children’s tactic of using its need to modernize some facilities with its far less obvious need to expand its most expensive ICU beds by 50%. This while its inpatient volume has declined by almost 18% since 2010 (source: CHIA 2014 BCH Hospital profile)

    Widmer claims DPH’s DoN process is “exceedingly rigorous and exacting”, yet it never even mentioned this obvious evidence that it has absolutely no need to expand (vs. modernize).

  2. […] the hardreading staff noted the other day, the Globe ran this op-ed piece by former Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation president Michael […]

  3. […] the hardreading staff noted last week, the Globe ran this op-ed piece by former Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation president Michael […]

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