Charity care spending flat among top hospitals (January 6, 2018) gives readers an inaccurate and incomplete picture of how hospitals and health systems provide tremendous benefit to both patients and their communities, and do so while facing many challenges in delivering care. 

In addition to providing high quality care 24/7, hospitals and health systems provide enormous value to their local communities. Charity care, which is care provided for free or at reduced prices to low income patients, is only one part of how a hospital benefits its community. It does not account for the total community benefit provided, including the many programs and services that hospitals tailor to meet the specific needs of their particular community. These include programs that go well beyond the mission of hospitals to treat life-threatening injuries and diseases, and include programs that promote health and wellness to help prevent chronic conditions, tackle social detriments of health and disparities in care, address identified community health needs along with strengthening community partnerships that promote well-being. 

An Ernst and Young report released last October demonstrates that for every dollar invested in non-profit hospitals and health systems through the federal tax exemption, they deliver $11 in benefits back to their communities in the form of health care services. No other health care sector can claim anything close in terms of providing such value for the public benefit it receives.

The article also fails to adequately highlight the financial challenges many hospitals currently face, including the fact that one out of every four hospitals in America operates in the red. Since 2010, hospitals have absorbed numerous payment reductions for services, estimated as high as $148.75 billion.

The fact is that hospitals and health systems deliver a vast array of community benefits that go far beyond charity care. And, many do so in the face of dire financial challenges because of their unwavering commitment to the health and well-being of their communities. 


Rick Pollack
President and CEO
American Hospital Association
Washington, D.C.