Not-for-Profit Hospitals Under Scrutiny for Charity Care Totals
Each year, East Bay not-for-profit hospitals receive millions of dollars in tax breaks to care for low-income and uninsured patients, but they provide a small portion of local charity care, according to an analysis from the Bay Area News Group, the Contra Costa Times reports.
Charity care is defined as no-cost or discounted treatment thatÂ hospitals provide for low-income or uninsured patients.
The analysis examined the percentage of operating expenses that each hospital puts toward charity care, the total amount spent on charity care and how the total is divided among hospitals.
State and federal laws are vague about what hospitals must do to be eligible for tax breaks, and debate has increased nationwide about whether not-for-profit hospitals do enough to justify their tax-exempt status.
The analysis found that five hospitals in Alameda and Contra Costa counties had charity care levels below the statewide not-for-profit average of 2.99% of operating expenses.
The analysis also found that:
- Alameda County's nine not-for-profit hospitals provided less than 43% of charity care in the county last year, while the county-owned Highland Hospital accounted for more than 53% of charity county for the county in 2010; and
- Contra Costa County's six not-for-profit facilities accounted for less than 23% of countywide charity care last year, while the county-owned Contra Costa Regional Medical Center accounted for more than 75% of countywide charity care in 2010.
Meanwhile, charity care provided by the two county-operated hospitals rose significantly between 2005 and 2010. Charity care provided by Highland Hospital rose from $27 million to $59 million, or 15% of its operating expenses, while charity care provided by Contra Costa Regional Medical Center increased from $57 million to $81 million, or 23% of its operating expenses.
Some not-for-profit hospitals have argued that it is unfair to judge them based solely on charity care.
They said that they spend millions of dollars annually on other services such as mobile health vans, no-cost health screenings, no-cost surgeries for low-income residents and medical research.
Other hospitals in higher-income communities have said that fewer uninsured residents go to their facilities for care (Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, 10/23).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.