It's the health business subject that never dies: whether non-profit hospitals are earning their tax-exempt status. As readers of sister publication FierceHealthFinance know, I'm far from convinced that they are--and wrote a fairly tough editorial saying just that. (In fact, in a fit of pique, I described the Connecticut Hospital Association as pulling a "fast one" in its recent community benefit report.)
Then I asked readers, as I have in the past, whether they think I'm challenging non-profit hospitals too aggressively. Well, it seems they don't think so. Here's some tough words from a Montana physician:
"Hospital community benefits are a joke. The hospital industry's claims that it provides all this free care is simply an excuse to monopolize the market by asserting the proposition that a lot of the care hospitals provide is uncompensated. Baloney. Our local hospital asks employees to fill out a form listing their volunteer activities in the community, even those that have nothing to do with the hospital, such as coaching little league, etc. The hospital then claims that as a community benefit. The not for profit hospital industry is a racket, not a model."
And here's an equally skeptical response from a California pharmacist:
" Until there is a standard (federal) definition with strict enforceable guidelines on what is considered "charity care" as well as who should not qualify (i.e. undocumented immigrants and citizens above federal poverty level), then hospitals will continue to manipulate the current IRS tax laws all the while crying poverty...I won't hold my breath."
With the oh-so-serious Chuck Grassley bearing down on non-profit exemptions, professionals across the board getting disgusted with the system, and analyst/journalist/consumers like me getting fed up with what looks like chicanery, it's looking at gunfight time in the OK Corral for non-profits. Though I've begun to wonder whether I'm preaching to the deaf and blind, I'll ask again: non-profit CEOs, are you listening? - Anne