PRIVACY: HHS Rules Could ‘Cripple’ Hospital Fundraising
Federal medical privacy rules proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services would prevent hospitals from using patient names and contact information for fundraising campaigns without prior authorization -- potentially costing not-for-profit hospitals up to $3.5 billion annually, according to the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP). In a statement, the American Hospital Association said not-for-profit health providers have long relied on charitable gifts and argued that the draft rules would put many hospitals, already struggling with reimbursement cuts and rising costs, "under greater financial pressure." Analysts dispute AHP's prediction, noting that hospitals have not relied as much on fundraising as universities or other not-for-profit organizations and that philanthropy is declining in importance for hospitals. But William McGinly, president of AHP, reports that charitable giving accounts for between 2% and 10% of hospital budgets and has increasingly become a major source of funding for charitable care and capital investments, such as building construction or new technology acquisition. Despite the projected loss of funds, some fundraising and privacy experts support the proposed rules, arguing that they make "good business sense" and that hospitals may still use former patients' data once they have obtained patient consent. HHS, which is reviewing 60,000 comments on the draft rules, has not yet set a date for release of the final rule (Cleary, Washington Times, 3/21).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.