Hospitals spend little on charitable care, yet evade taxes

Many Iowa hospitals spend far less than 1 percent of their revenues on care for poor patients while reaping tax exemptions on nearly $2 billion worth of property, reports the Des Moines Register.

According to the newspaper, 46 not-for-profit hospitals reported $295 million in earnings in 2009. Less than half of that amount was earmarked toward care for the poor and uninsured. Fifteen facilities applied less than 1 percent of their profits toward charity care, while 11 hospitals spent more than 2 percent.

The nonprofit exemptions allow the state's hospitals to not pay $58 million a year in property taxes.

"Nonprofits, because of the tax benefits they have, ought to be doing more charitable care than for-profit hospitals," said Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has been critical of the way not-for-profit hospitals operate. "Hospitals that aren't doing the proper amount of charitable care should lose their nonprofit status."

However, the Iowa Hospital Association contended that the numbers hide the true story. "If you're just looking at charity care numbers, you're not looking at care that gets provided and never gets paid for," said IHA President Kirk Norris.

For more information:
- read the Des Moines Register article
- check out the Iowa hospital charitable care database

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