CHA Voices Concerns Over Hospital Charity Care Legislation
The California Senate Health Committee is considering a bill (AB 503) that would create uniform charity care requirements for hospitals, but hospitals warn the measure could have negative implications, HealthyCal reports.
The committee on Wednesday will hold a hearing on the bill (Urevich, HealthyCal, 6/25).
Background on Bill
AB 503 is based off of a charity care bill (AB 975) that failed to advance last year.
The stalled bill -- by Assembly members Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) -- would have increased the level of charity care not-for-profit acute care facilities must provide and tightened hospital reporting requirements.
Current California law requires not-for-profit hospitals to submit community needs assessments every three years to prove that the public is benefiting from the hospitals' tax-exempt status.
Wieckowski authored AB 503, which would create uniform community benefits requirements that would target particularly vulnerable populations.
In a release, Wieckowski said, "Taxpayers are providing these hospitals with almost $2 billion in tax benefits and yet there is no system in place with a standard method to calculate the amount of community benefits." He added that his bill would ensure that the public would "know if the hospitals' community benefit spending matches the local health care needs" (California Healthline, 3/20).
The bill is supported by the California Nurses Association, California Rural Legal Assistance and the Greenlining Institute.
However, hospitals have criticized the bill as unnecessary and potentially misleading.
California Hospital Association spokesperson Jan Emerson-Shea said, "It's just another unfunded mandate on hospitals at a time when we're trying to adjust to a new reality" under the Affordable Care Act.
So far this year, CHA has spent a total of $3.8 million on lobbying efforts during this legislative session, and Emerson-Shea said the group now is targeting AB 503.
Emerson-Shea said that releasing information on charity care alone could be misleading, adding, "It misses the bigger picture, which are community benefit programs outside the hospital that are intended to address community needs," such as:
- Diabetes and obesity prevention initiatives;
- Health screenings;
- Medical education; and
- Medical research.
In addition, she said some hospitals are located in communities that largely are not in need of charity care. She said, "If you're a hospital in inner city L.A., you'll have a lot more charity care required than if you're in Newport Beach" (HealthyCal, 6/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.