Hospital Community Benefits in Oregon: Our Hospital, Our Benefit?

Here is an excerpt from the report by Act Now for a Health Oregon: Pointing to a 47 percent decline in charity care spending by nonprofit hospitals over nine months, labor and community health advocates call for increased transparency, accountability and community benefits in order to maintain tax exemptions,

(Portland, Ore.) – The Oregon Health Equity Alliance (OHEA), Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) and SEIU Local 49’s Act Now for a Healthy Oregon today released a report calling for increased oversight and meaningful community health investments from Oregon’s nonprofit hospitals. 

The report—titled Hospital Community Benefits in Oregon: Our Hospital, Our Benefit?— notes that nonprofit hospitals have significantly decreased the amount of charitable care they provide since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), and calls for increased accountability and oversight to ensure that nonprofit hospitals are continuing to provide enough community benefit to justify the substantial tax benefits they receive.

“Hospitals and their neighborhood clinics are the backbone for meeting many of our community health needs,” said Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, Executive Director of APANO and Co-Chair of OHEA. “With the Affordable Care Act dramatically shifting the landscape by expanding coverage and reducing uncompensated care, it’s time for a critical look at how Oregon’s nonprofit hospitals can improve longstanding health inequities and better provide quality, affordable care to those who need it most.”

The report contains an analysis of Oregon nonprofit hospitals’ tax filings and federally-reported grant recipient lists from 2012 forward. The analysis found wide variation in the activities hospitals are claiming as “community benefit.” For example, Asante gave money to the Jacksonville Britt Festival and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Tuality Healthcare spent $6,500 to sponsor the Oregon International Airshow. 

“Hospitals were first granted tax exemptions in the early 1900s, when they primarily provided last-resort care and shelter for poor and homeless people – but a lot has changed since then,” said Meg Niemi, President of SEIU Local 49.  “Today, while many patients and workers in Oregon struggle to afford high-deductible healthcare, hospitals are providing less and less charity care—and earning more profits. If hospitals are going to continue to claim significant tax breaks, they need to be accountable for significant charitable benefit.” 

Other key findings of the report include:

  • From the first nine months of 2013 (prior to the rollout of the ACA) to the first nine months of 2014 (after the ACA) there was a decline of 47 percent in hospital charity spending. 
  • During the same nine-month period, operating profits at nonprofit Oregon hospitals increased by more than 117 percent.
  • While hospitals report general dollar figures related to community benefits, there is little oversight or regulation of what constitutes “community benefit.”

“Earlier this year, the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems received positive press coverage for their voluntary pledge to keep community benefit spending at or above levels from previous years – but as our analysis shows, unless we define exactly what hospitals can report as ‘community benefit,’ and how they engage Oregonians who are struggling to afford their care, this pledge is meaningless,” continued Niemi. “We need to demand a return on investment for hospital community benefit programs that is transparent, measurable, and effectively addresses critical health needs in our communities.”

The report is available online at:  http://acthealthyoregon.org/news/ 

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Oregon Takes Key Step for Affordable Health and Immigrant Inclusion

From our friends at  Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO):

Inclusion, Affordability and Innovation Coalition
For Immediate Release May 26, 2015
Contact: Joseph Santos-Lyons joseph@apano.org 971-340-4861
John Mullin jmullin@oregonlawcenter.org

Oregon Takes Key Step for Affordable Health and Immigrant Inclusion
Basic Health Bill Heads to Governor Kate Brown

Salem, Ore. – Today the Oregon Senate passed HB 2934A with a bipartisan vote of 22-7 (1 excused).  This priority bill of the Oregon Health Equity Alliance now heads to Governor Kate Brown for her signature.  HB 2934A, directs directs the Oregon Health Authority to work with stakeholders to develop the policy framework for a potential Basic Health Program. A Basic Health Program has the potential to cover 87,000 working Oregonians, providing better care at lower costs, and create an affordable option for legal residents who face barriers due to their immigration status.

“We can and must do right by our working families who contribute everyday to our state’s economic recovery by ensuring they have access to affordable healthcare,” says Alberto Moreno, Executive Director of the Oregon Latino Health Coalition.

“Today is a day of hope for many working Oregonians struggling to afford required health insurance, even with the help of federal tax subsidies,” says Janet Bauer, policy analyst for the Oregon Center for Public Policy. “A well-designed Oregon Basic Health Program would provide quality health coverage for tens of thousands of lower-income Oregonians — at little or no cost to the state.”

“Our immigrant communities continue to face unnecessary and costly exclusions from the Oregon Health Plan, and we look forward to working with the Oregon Health Authority to develop the policy framework grounded in inclusion, affordability and innovation,” says Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO).

Basic Health is an program option states may elect under the Federal Affordable Care Act to provide choice to individuals who earn 138-200% of the Federal Poverty Level.  The 2014 feasibility study of an Oregon Basic Health Plan revealed significant benefits including expanded health insurance coverage, improved benefits, that could potentially be offered through Oregon’s coordinated care organizations.  Basic Health could work toward addressing Oregon’s significant health disparities: the lack of insurance, which disproportionately affects communities of color, immigrants and refugees.  A Basic Health Program can extend healthcare choices to Oregonians from the Compact of Free Association (COFA) nations of Palau, Micronesia and Marshall Islands, and Legal Permanent Residents who have resided in the US for under 5 years, who currently are excluded from federal Medicaid benefits.  It can also advance health equity by increasing access to a range of reproductive care, dental and mental health services.  Oregon could achieve all of this at little or no cost to the state budget.

HB 2934A is sponsored by the House Healthcare Committee, and passed the House of Representatives 39-21 on April 20, 2015.

HB 2934A – OLIS

Oregon Basic Health Program Study 2014

Inclusion, Affordability, and Inovation Coalition/HB 2934A Endorsing Organizations include:

AARP Oregon
Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon
CareOregon
Children First for Oregon
Coalition of Communities of Color
Coalition of Community Health Clinics
Elders in Action
Healthcare for All Oregon
Mid-Valley Healthcare Advocates
NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon
Oregon Latino Health Coalition
Oregon Law Center
Oregon Center for Public Policy
Oregon Health Equity Alliance
Oregon Primary Care Association
SEIU503

You can help MVHCA as we work for single payer health care by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.