Issue Brief

No. 821

What Have You Done for Me Lately? Assessing Hospital Community Benefit
April 19, 2007


Eileen Salinsky


This issue brief reviews key aspects of the ongoing policy debate related to not-for-profit hospitals, the advantages they derive from tax exemption, and the benefits they provide to communities served. It provides a historical context for how federal standards for assessing hospitals’ tax-exempt status have evolved and describes recent activities to explore additional policy changes. Legislative and regulatory actions at the state and local level are also examined. Evidence on the performance of not-for-profit hospitals in comparison to their for-profit competitors on measures of cost, quality, and access is summarized, and perspectives on the need to preserve a not-for-profit presence in health care are explored. Efforts to develop standardized metrics for measuring community benefit are described, and alternative conventions for reporting charity care contributions are discussed.

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