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Chicago Tribune Article Quotes HMPRG Policy Analyst, Janna Stansell, on Charity Care Issue

Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)
February 29, 2012

Read the full article in the February 28, 2012 Chicago Tribune

Illinois Hospital Association readies draft legislation on tax exemptions as deadline nears

CARLA K. JOHNSON

AP Medical Writer

6:15 PM CST, February 28, 2012

CHICAGO (AP) — Finding a compromise on a legal standard that would allow Illinois' nonprofit hospitals to keep their valuable property tax exemptions is proving difficult as a Thursday deadline set by Gov. Pat Quinn approaches.

An eleventh-hour meeting is scheduled Wednesday with advisers from Quinn's office, representatives from hospitals and consumer advocates. If a compromise can't be reached, the Illinois Hospital Association is ready with its own draft legislation, while a consumer coalition is arguing in favor of a standard that most hospitals aren't meeting now.

Five months ago, Quinn set a March 1 deadline and halted the Illinois Department of Revenue from issuing rulings that would strip hospitals of the tax exemptions if they were deemed not to be providing sufficient charity care.

The governor's office will determine its next step on Thursday, said Quinn spokeswoman Brie Callahan. Quinn could extend the negotiations if a compromise can't be reached. It's also possible he could order the Department of Revenue to resume issuing rulings that could mean more hospitals would have to start paying local property taxes.

"We're prepared to follow the governor's instructions on March 1 regarding the moratorium on dealing with hospital applications for charity exemptions," said Department of Revenue spokeswoman Sue Hofer.

Illinois Hospital Association spokesman Danny Chun said the group wants the talks to continue, but that it has draft legislation ready and has lined up East St. Louis Democratic Sen. James Clayborne Jr. as the sponsor, Chun said.

"We're assuming (Wednesday) is not the last meeting. We're assuming these very important talks will continue," Chun said. "We do need a legislative solution passed this spring."

Chun said the hospital association supports a framework floated Monday by the Civic Federation. Under the proposal, a nonprofit hospital would be required to provide charitable care and other community benefits at least equal to the property taxes it would have paid.

On the other side, consumer group Fair Care Coalition wants each hospital to provide 6 percent of its revenue for charitable benefits to get a tax exemption. Eighty percent of that would have to be in the form of free or discounted care for the poor.

Few nonprofit hospitals meet that standard now, said Janna Stansell, who is a part of the coalition and a senior policy analyst for the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group in Chicago.

"We believe hospitals could do a better job of helping people access charity care," she said.

Only four of 25 nonprofit hospitals in Cook County are now meeting the standard proposed by the coalition, according to new data analysis that the coalition shared with The Associated Press.

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