Lawmakers Renew Plans To Create Definition for Charity Care at Hospitals
Last month's Illinois Supreme Court ruling on Provena Covenant Medical Center's property-tax exemption has jump-started lawmakers' efforts to define charity care, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The court's decision upheld previous rulings that Provena Covenant performed insufficient charity care to warrant a property-tax exemption in 2002.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) said the ruling has "renewed energy" toward defining what constitutes charity care and how much hospitals must provide to qualify for tax exemptions (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 4/5).
Definitions of Charity Care
Measuring hospitals' charitable activity has long been a point of contention among the courts, lawmakers and health care providers. In recent years, a handful of hospitals have lost aspects of their tax-exempt status because courts or regulators found the organizations did not provide enough charity care or failed to act in a charitable manner.
Last month, a judge ruled that not-for-profit New Jersey-based Morristown Memorial Hospital may have to pay taxes because parts of the facility, including a cafÃ© and physician office building, are operated "for profit" (Koloff, Morris County Daily Record, 3/26).
Analysts note that hospitals and lawmakers have an incentive to establish a definition for charity care before state- and county-level taxing bodies arrive at their own interpretations (Chicago Tribune, 4/5).
Lawmakers Join Discussion
Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) are partnering to "crack down" on not-for-profit hospitals that do not provide sufficient charity care but continue to claim tax exemptions, The Hill reports.
The two lawmakers have yet to determine a specific course of action, although Rush sought out Grassley -- a long time critic of hospitals' charity care levels -- after a hospital in Rushâs district was accused of patient dumping.
According to Grassley, a uniform definition of charity care would compel not-for-profit hospitals to treat a wider range of patients (Heflin, The Hill, 3/29).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.