Friday, September 15, 2006
Tax-exempt hospitals & Sen. Grassley's Finance Committee
Turning now to charity care, particularly discounted care and free care for low-income uninsured, there actually seems to be some agreement that nonprofit hospitals should be providing such discounts and free care. The CHA and American Hospital Association (AHA) testimony talk about basic policies in this area. As always there are details, but I think it is important for members and the press to recognize that the nonprofit hospital organizations agree that there needs to be real charity care provided.
I think the question then comes about how can we make this policy real for folks like Mrs. Insco. I think Sister Carol has it exactly right in her testimony that: “It is one thing to have policies in place, and quite another to implement them.” We need to think about how we can best make policies of discounted and free care to low-income uninsured a real benefit to those in need.
Non-profit hospitals receive billions in tax breaks at the federal, state and local level. The public has a right to expect significant, measurable benefits in return. I hope the hearing will help the Finance Committee decide how we can best ensure that non-profit hospitals provide appropriate levels of benefit to the communities they serve. As we consider these questions, I think it right to also bear in mind the particular issues facing critical access rural hospitals.
Let me end by saying that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the IRS Commissioner Mark Everson have both commented that there is often little to no difference between for-profit hospitals and non-profit hospitals when it comes to charity care and community benefits provided. I’m confident that many non-profit hospitals are well-intended and do outstanding work on behalf of their communities and the poor. But I’m concerned that the best practices of non-profit hospitals are not common practices for all. That needs to change.