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HMPRG's Margie Schaps' and Diane Limas' Letter to the Editor on Charity Care Published in March 12, 2012 Chicago Tribune

Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)
March 12, 2012

Download the ppost from the Chicago Tribune, March 12, 2012

From Voice of the People

Hospital taxes

Your March 2 editorial about hospital property-tax exemptions suggests that the best thing for hospitals, patients and communities would be to allow broad definition of charity that lets hospitals maintain their tax exemption based on the good work they already do. The Fair Care Coalition sees the unmet need in our communities, however, and we know that some needy patients ask for charity care at tax-exempt hospitals and are told it does not exist. A patient like this whose bill is classified as bad debt instead of as charity care may endure a stressful debt-collection process even if he or she should have qualified for financial assistance — and this while the patient is recovering from the illness or injury that put him or her in the hospital in the first place.

This cannot be considered charity, and it certainly doesn't distinguish tax-exempt, not-for-profit hospitals from tax-paying, for-profit hospitals, or indeed from any other business that has unpaid bills from customers.

No one in the hospital charity-care debate wants to hurt hospitals; what the Fair Care Coalition seeks is a system that works and encourages hospitals to live up to their own mission. If hospitals are serious about making a good-faith effort to relieve the burden of government, they could begin by providing diagnostic services to some of the thousands of patients on waiting lists in the county health system.

Margie Schaps, executive director, Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, Chicago
Diane Limas, community leader, Albany Park Neighborhood Council, Chicago