Readers take issue with challenge to non-profit hospital tax exemptions

I'm not surprised to report that my editorial last week challenging non-profit hospitals' right to a tax-exemption struck a nerve. Some readers wrote in to complain bitterly, and others to give me a high five, but nobody was lukewarm on the subject--and several had some neat ideas for change.

A sampling of reader opinion includes the following:

"Instead of getting rid of the tax exempt status for hospitals, why not think in terms of getting rid of taxes for all hospitals in exchange for tighter regulations and control of costs and charges?"

- A non-profit hospital official

"Non profit, in my book, means, 'there is no profit in it for you and me.' Rick Scott calls them 'non tax-paying' - cruel but to the point. It is time to rid us of all profit-making non-profits in healthcare - hospitals and health plans."

- A website poster

"Before we start demanding that not-for-profits 'pay their fair share,' let's give serious consideration to what healthcare in our nation will look like without them. No one has yet to come up with a more economical and rational way to serve the health needs of our nation's poor. We can't afford to be short-sighted on this issue."

- A non-profit hospital executive 

"Shouldn't we include government facilities in the 'not- for-profit' bucket?"

- A hospital financial consultant

As some of you might have guessed, I wrote the editorial largely to stimulate conversation; I don't believe that the health system would be served by an abrupt termination of non-profit hospitals' tax exemptions by any means, if for no other reason than it wouldn't be smart to change anything too quickly.

On the other hand, as I noted before, it's indisputable that we we have to have a hard conversation about the benefits and downsides of this model, since it is the way much of our hospital care is delivered. After all, what's the point of calling it reform if we don't "re-form" things? - Anne