Boston, MA, December 5, 2007. Community Catalyst, a national consumer health advocacy organization, today released an updated compilation and analysis of all state hospital community benefit laws and guidelines. Only 17 states currently have any form of standards in place requiring nonprofit hospital compliance with obligations tied to their tax-exempt legal status. (A community benefits law for an 18th state, Oregon, will become effective on January 1, 2008.)
Community benefits, including free care and other services that address the unmet health needs of a community, are provided by hospitals in exchange for the lucrative federal, state, and local tax exemptions they receive. It is estimated that the total value of all tax exemptions enjoyed by nonprofit hospitals is over $12 billion each year.
“It’s a shame that more states haven’t set firm standards about the kinds of services their nonprofit hospitals must provide to meet the needs of the uninsured and underinsured in their communities,” said Renée Markus Hodin, project director at Community Catalyst. “And, our analysis shows that the standards in even this small number of states vary dramatically from state to state. This finding underscores the need for uniform benchmarks and transparency requirements both at the state and the federal level.”
Community Catalyst offers this updated analysis of state community benefits standards at the same time that federal policymakers are increasingly turning their attention to nonprofit hospital accountability. Recently, Senate Finance Committee staff members convened a roundtable discussion on the issue of setting minimum federal standards for nonprofit hospital community benefit programs. The IRS has also proposed stronger and more uniform reporting requirements for hospital community benefits.
Hospital free care, an essential component of community benefits, has also been a focus of Community Catalyst’s recent efforts. In October, for instance, Community Catalyst launched a custom-designed web-based software solution that allows users to “build” their own state legislation aimed at setting standards for patient financial assistance and free care laws.
Try the Patient Financial Assistance Act web tool or view the complete report Health Care Community Benefits: A Compendium of State Laws.
About Community Catalyst
Community Catalyst is a national non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to quality affordable health care for all. Since 1997, Community Catalyst has been working to build the consumer and community leadership required to transform the American health system. With the belief that this transformation will happen when consumers are fully engaged and have an organized voice, Community Catalyst works in partnership with national, state and local consumer organizations, policymakers, and foundations, providing leadership and support to change the health care system so it serves everyone—especially vulnerable members of society. For more information, visit www.communitycatalyst.org.