4 California hospitals ask AG to reduce charity care requirements: 5 things to know

Four California hospitals called on state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lower their required charity care amounts, with one hospital eyeing a 79 percent reduction, California Healthline reports.

Here are five things to know about the requests.

1. To qualify for tax breaks, nonprofit hospitals are required by federal law to provide a certain amount of care for free or at a discounted cost to patients who are unable to pay for treatment. In California, another state law allows the AG to set specific charity care requirements when a nonprofit hospital gets a new owner.

2. Three hospitals, including PIH Health Hospital - Downey (Calif.), Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City, Calif., and Los Angeles-based University of Southern California's Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, Calif., asked Mr. Becerra to lower their required charity care by about half. Turlock, Calif.-based Emanuel Medical Center is seeking a 79 percent cut to its charity obligations, California Healthline reports. The medical center was supposed to allocate $3.3 million toward charity care in 2016.

3. The hospitals argue a drop in California's uninsured population has lowered the need for charity care. California's uninsured rate fell from 17 percent in 2013 to 6.8 percent in 2017. The change prompted the California Hospital Association to send Mr. Becerra a letter last September describing 32 hospitals' desire for more flexible charity care requirements.

4. However, some policy experts said California is still home to 3 million uninsured Americans and a large population of residents with high-deductible health plans who may have trouble paying medical bills. Tam Ma, legal and policy director at consumer advocacy group Health Access, told California Healthline, "We find it hard to believe that these hospitals … can't find people who need the charity care."

5. Mr. Becerra declined California Healthline's request for comment. He has 90 days to respond to the four hospitals' petitions. A hearing is scheduled Thursday for Emanuel Medical Center's request.

Editor's note: This article was updated Feb. 22 at 3:38 p.m. CT to reflect Rideout Memorial Hospital was not included in the petition. We regret this error.

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