San Fran hospitals didn't use $79M for charity

Despite getting $79 million in tax breaks intended to help fund uncompensated care for the poor and uninsured, San Francisco's five not-for-profit hospitals only provided $16 million in charity care, according to a report by the city's Department of Public Health. It also noted that while the city's public hospital treated 81,000 charity patients last year, at a cost of more than $100 million a year, the five not-for-profit hospitals combined treated only 16,000 charity patients, city officials said.

The report contends that the bulk of the disparity was created by California Pacific Medical Center, which got close to $70 million in tax breaks while spending only $5.2 million in charity care. Chinese Hospital, another not-for-profit, got $3.8 million more in tax breaks than it spent on charity care, regulators said. Meanwhile, St. Luke's Hospital, St. Mary's Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center got less in tax breaks than they spent on charity care, the city said.

However, California Pacific argued that the city's definition of charity care is unduly strict, and doesn't include programs like it's new low-cost health center and breast cancer prevention program for African American women, nor does it take into account the losses it suffers when treating Medi-Cal patients at public hospital rates. When those factors are taken into account, California Pacific still fell $4.6 million short compared to its tax benefits, a spokesman contends.

To learn more about the report (and its repercussions):
- read this San Francisco Chronicle piece

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