Analysis Suggests Government And Nonprofit Hospitals' Charity Care Is Not Aligned With Their Favorable Tax Treatment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The different tax treatment of government, nonprofit, and for-profit hospitals implies different charity care obligations, with the greatest obligation for government hospitals and the least for for-profit hospitals. Prior research has not examined charity care provision among all three ownership types at the national level. Using 2018 Medicare Hospital Cost Reports, we compared charity care provision across 1,024 government, 2,709 nonprofit, and 930 for-profit hospitals. In aggregate, nonprofit hospitals spent $2.3 of every $100 in total expenses incurred on charity care, which was less than government ($4.1) or for-profit ($3.8) hospitals. No hospital ownership type outperformed the other two types with respect to charity care provision in a majority of hospital service areas containing all three types. Using different kinds of analyses, we also found wide variation in charity care provision within ownership types and a lack of a consistent pattern across ownership types. These results suggest that many government and nonprofit hospitals' charity care provision was not aligned with their charity care obligations arising from their favorable tax treatment. Policy makers may consider initiatives to enhance hospitals' charity care provision, particularly hospitals with government and nonprofit ownership.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)629-636
Number of pages8
JournalHealth affairs (Project Hope)
Volume40
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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