Community benefit - hindering or improving community health: analysis of a nonprofit hospital system and the communities served
In the United States, under the provisions set forth by a policy known as community benefit, nonprofit hospitals receive special tax exemptions from government in exchange for providing a wide range of health care services to the communities in which they are located. In recent years, nonprofit hospitals have claimed billions of dollars as community benefit justifying their tax-exempt status. However, growing criticism by numerous stakeholders has questioned the extent to which the level of community benefit claimed by nonprofit hospitals reflects the exemptions they receive. In addition, a dearth of research exists to understand the relationship between community benefit claims and the impact they have on improving the health of communities. In an effort to better understand the relationship between community benefit claims, tax status, and community health outcomes this study examines the community benefit policies of a nonprofit healthcare system representing hospitals in California, Nevada, and Arizona. It does so by reviewing materials produced by the system, her hospitals, vested stakeholders, and government that have shaped the development, implementation, and assessment of community benefit policy processes. Findings of the study suggest that the majority of nonprofit hospital community benefit claims are consumed by shortfalls reported between costs associated with providing care to Medicare and Medicaid patients and the compensation nonprofit hospitals receive from government. Results of the study also demonstrate that community benefit policies do positively impact the health of communities. However, future community benefit policies need to be refined to include measures that capture the magnitude of community health improvement if the relationship between policy and health outcomes is to be fully realized.