The Attorney General’s Office released new guidelines, demonstrating the Commonwealth’s commitment to tackling social determinants of health and leading in health system transformation
(BOSTON, MA) – The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office unveiled new guidelines for non-profit hospital community benefits today, with a strong emphasis on meaningful community engagement, addressing community health issues like housing and substance use, and transparent reporting guidelines.
Developed in conjunction with a task force of representatives from hospitals, HMOs, community groups and health experts, the guidelines set a new foundation for Massachusetts communities, HMOs, and hospitals to improve the health of the state’s residents, particularly the Commonwealth’s most underserved communities.
“This is a tremendous step forward for the Commonwealth and continues to place Massachusetts at the front lines of community benefits,” said Susan Sherry, a task force member and deputy director with Community Catalyst. “Massachusetts has long been a leader in community engagement. We hope these guidelines can be a model for policymakers in states around the country.”
First established by the Attorney General’s Office in 1994, the community benefit guidelines ensure that hospitals and HMOs are addressing unmet public health needs and promoting health equity. The Attorney General’s Office facilitated a collaborative effort that built on decades of experience to take Massachusetts to the next generation of work.
“While the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 created a baseline series of federal requirements, today’s announcement prioritizes and highlights the importance of understanding that racism must be a lens for addressing health equity issues. This is an important step forward. As we reflect on the tone and tenor emerging from Washington, DC, it’s important for us to continue cross-sector collaboration to advance racial equity and focus on the deeply rooted social issues ingrained in our health care system,” Sherry emphasized.
The new Massachusetts’ guidelines promote strong hospital financial assistance protections for consumers, shielding them from surging health care costs and reducing the financial harm that can come from an unplanned illness or injury.
Since its inception in 1998, Community Catalyst has advocated for stronger and clearer federal and state policy to ensure tax-exempt non-profit hospitals are meeting their obligation to the communities they serve. Community Catalyst was the leading consumer voice behind federal law changes under the ACA that strengthened consumer protections around unfair hospital billing and collection practices and included the requirement that all non-profit hospitals engage their community in a needs assessment.
Community Catalyst released a report in 2016 that examined the current state of hospital community benefit programs. The report found that while Massachusetts tax-exempt hospitals invest more than a half-billion dollars annually into community benefit programs, but there was little evidence of the effectiveness of those investments and whether they benefit the communities served. The report also offered recommendations to strengthen coordination, transparency and impact.
About Community Catalyst
Community Catalyst is a national, non-profit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1998 with the belief that affordable quality health care should be accessible to everyone. We work in partnership with national, state and local organizations, policymakers, and philanthropic foundations to ensure consumer interests are represented wherever important decisions about health and the health system are made: in communities, courtrooms, statehouses and on Capitol Hill. For more information, visit www.communitycatalyst.org. Read our blog at http://blog.communitycatalyst.org. Follow us on Twitter @healthpolicyhub.