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Nonprofit health-care providers see threat

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With Americans’ access to health care expanding because of changes in the health-care system spearheaded by the Obama administration, state and local governments hungry for revenue are creating fiscal barriers that limit nonprofit hospitals’ ability to provide needed services, a trade group for nonprofit health-care providers’ philanthropic programs says.

Some lawmakers, claiming nonprofit health-care groups and hospitals do not provide enough community benefit, have “stripped hospitals of their rightful entitlement to tax-exempt status,” says the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy.

Other lawmakers have tried to “extract funds from nonprofits by eliminating specific tax exemptions and instituting new fees and taxes,” the group says. “These actions ignore the challenges America’s health-care nonprofits face and the good they do in their communities.”

Greg Pope, chair of the association and vice president of philanthropy at Saint Thomas Health Services Foundation in Nashville, Tenn., says in a statement that nonprofit hospitals give their communities “improved access to medical care, preventative services and high-quality therapies.”

He also says nonprofit hospitals “have historically played and continue to play a key role in the finance and delivery of health care in the United States because they are bound by their missions to ‘do good’ for the benefit of the communities they serve.”

Sixty percent of all community hospitals operate as nonprofits and 23 percent are owned by state and local government, the association.

“They provide services that for-profits will not and cannot because the profit potential is inadequate,” says William C. McGinly, president and CEO of the association.

Pope says the grounds for tax-exemptions for nonprofit health organizations “range far beyond care for the indigent.”

Of $8.6 billion health-care groups raised in fiscal 2008, the association says, only 6 percent was used to support charitable care, compartd to 25 percxent to support construction and renovation; 20 percent to buy new equipment; 16 percent for general hospital operations; 12 percent for other community-benefit programs; and 5 percent for research and teaching.

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