Nonprofit hospitals get conflicting messages about tax exemptions

Officials in Charleston, W.V., have no intention of ever asking the local hospitals to give up their tax exemptions, saying what they provide in charity care far outweighs the potential revenue that could be gained, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

"That won't happen here," Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said of the CAMC Health System, which is based in Charleston and operates four hospitals within the state. "(It) is a charity hospital. They're a nonprofit and they do a lot of charity work--millions and millions of dollars. They're not going to go for-profit."

The discussion in West Virginia and elsewhere in the United States about the tax-exempt status of hospitals is being fueled by facilities that are believed by some to provide too little in terms of charity care and often provide hefty pay packages to their top executives.

In Pittsburgh, a mere three-hour drive from Charleston, city officials are considering a challenge to the tax-exempt status of the UPMC health system, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Among the considerations are the fact UPMC pays CEO Jeffrey Romoff nearly $6 million a year, while 19 other executives with the system receive more than $1 million, according to the newspaper.

Similarly, in Illinois, Provena Health had some of its property tax exemptions rolled back when state officials contended its facilities did not provide enough charity care.

However, Jones indicated that putting the same pressure on CAMC Health System could backfire.

"I'm not going to pass judgment (on Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl)," Jones told the Gazette-Mail. "I'm sure he's a very smart young man, but you put them into for-profit status and I'm not sure how much charity work they'd be willing to do."

For more:
- read the Gazette-Mail article
- read the Post-Gazette article