Hospital charity care reporting questioned

Montana's hospitals generally provide a sizable amount of charity care and community benefits, but a study released by the state's attorney general has questioned the values stated by some of the facilities, reported the Helena Independent Record.

Altogether, Montana's hospitals provided nearly $57 million in charity care in 2010, up from $33.6 million in 2006.

"This is likely related to both increased need and awareness, since the economic downturn associated with the Great Recession of 2008 coincided with efforts by Montana hospitals to improve access to their charity policies and application forms online," the Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock said in a statement accompanying the study.

However, Bullock noted that the approval rate for charity care applications dropped from 93 percent in 2008 to 90 percent in 2010.

Altogether, 57 of Montana's 60 hospitals are not-for-profits, according to the Independent Record. In 2010, they provided $195 million community benefits and claimed $58 million in tax exemptions, the report noted.

However, the report, which was authored by University of Montana professor and former hospital CEO Larry White, raised questions about hospitals claiming physician-owned clinics as a community benefit.

"From the perspective of analyzing the extent to which Montana's nonprofit hospitals are fulfilling their charitable purposes, the situation concerning subsidized services--and particularly those involving physician clinics is appropriately a matter of concern and attention," White said in the report.

For more:
- check out the Independent Record article
- here's the report (.pdf)