Time and time again, it’s been proven that non-profit hospitals more than earn their tax-exempt status by providing benefits determined to best serve each community. That’s why today’s report examining non-profit hospitals from Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate HELP committee, is so mistaken. The information about community benefit and hospitals’ involvement with their communities is just plain wrong.
Today’s report is totally off base and does not fully account for the wide range of community benefits that hospitals provide. This tunnel-visioned “research” neglects to consider that under the law community benefit is defined by much more than charity care and includes patient financial aid, health education programs and housing assistance, just to name a few.
The AHA analyzes the IRS filings tax-exempt hospitals make every year that calculates the value of community benefits. According to a new report, tax-exempt hospitals provided $129 billion in total benefits to their communities in 2020, despite a global pandemic. This is about $20 billion more than the prior year and 15.5% of total hospital expenses.
This new data builds on a report by the international accounting firm EY demonstrating that the return to taxpayers for hospitals’ federal tax exemption is $9-to-$1 (2019); that is for every one dollar of tax exemption taxpayers receive $9 of community benefits. That is a remarkable return by any standard.
More importantly, what this data tells us is that unlike other sectors that had the luxury of choice when it came to how they would support communities during a once in a generation pandemic, hospitals took on more responsibility for our public health and safety, while upping the ante on community benefit.
Let the record show that when we truly count all the ways that tax-exempt hospitals and health systems support communities we find that every time we ask more of them, they step up and deliver. It’s time we stopped pretending otherwise.