Perspective: Advancing the Health of Communities is Central to Every Hospital’s Mission
Hospitals and health systems have always been the trusted source of care that people turn to in times of sickness, injury or emergency. But beyond administering life-saving medical care to individual patients, each and every hospital throughout the country is a cornerstone of its community and provides many benefits outside of their four walls.
Unlike other sectors of health care, all hospitals open their doors to everyone who needs care, as well as work in partnership with others to improve and sustain the health of all people in their communities. These efforts are as diverse as the communities they serve.
For example, hospitals and health systems work in concert with community partners to address issues such as food insecurity, affordable housing, transportation and behavioral health. They operate clinics for the underserved, support emergency preparedness programs, sponsor medical research and help train the next generation of caregivers. And they help individuals enroll in health insurance coverage, employ millions of people and support the local economy … just to name a few things.
Two studies released last week during Community Health Improvement Week highlight the tremendous value hospitals provide to benefit their communities.
The first analysis by Ernst & Young found tax-exempt hospitals and health systems provided over $110 billion in community benefits in fiscal year 2019 — the most recent year data are available — almost nine times the value of their federal tax exemption. The report only examines tax-exempt hospitals and health systems so the $110 billion in benefits to communities would be more if it included benefits that all hospitals provide to their communities.
A separate analysis by the AHA shows that tax-exempt hospitals and health systems provided total community benefits equal to 13.9% of their expenses, with over half of these benefits going to provide financial assistance to patients and absorb losses due to underpayments from Medicaid and other means-tested government programs.
Behind the statistics, benefits take many forms as all hospitals work with their communities to advance health. Hospitals and health systems of all sizes, types and locations deliver a wide range of tailored benefits, activities, services, programs and research to meet the varied health needs of those they serve. You can view some examples on our webpage, and you can share examples of amazing programs occurring at your hospital or health system.
For the past two and a half years during an unprecedented public health crisis, our nation has seen firsthand how America’s hospitals and health systems have cared for their patients and provided essential services to their communities.
And as the health care sector continues to experience historic change, hospitals and health systems remain where they’ve always been . . . at the forefront, leading the charge to advance health for patients and communities.