Community benefit standards vary widely across non-profit hospitals

Non-profit hospitals continue to struggle with the issue of setting standards for providing community benefits, leading to wide variability in how they report such benefits, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The report, which was requested by non-profit hospital watchdog Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), reviewed IRS and CMS regs and rulings, state laws, industry guidance and 2006 data from four states. In the report, the GAO noted that with ambiguous federal regulations in place, varying state laws and conflicting policies from industry groups on disclosing aid hospitals have given to communities, it's not too surprising that hospital community benefit reporting is a mess.

GAO researchers noted that federal regs offer the nation's 2,900 private not-for-profit hospitals wide latitude to meet the IRS's 1969 standard for community benefits. For that reason, states are free to make varied interpretations, including widely differing views as to what counts as a benefit (such as whether Medicare losses or bad debt should be included).

To learn more about the report:
- read this Modern Healthcare piece (reg. req.)

Related Articles:
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Study: Better community benefit plans needed
AHA makes headway on community-benefit reporting
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