Oregon proposes minimum for hospitals' community benefit spending

A bill introduced in Oregon would set a minimum for the amount tax-exempt hospitals spend on benefits for the communities they serve, according to a Portland Business Journal report.

House Bill 3076 requires the state to set a minimum for hospitals' community benefit spending, and provides remedies and penalties for not meeting that minimum. It also requires nonprofit hospital systems to report specific information to the state each year, such as property tax exemption status and charity care provided.

Service Employees International Union Local 49, which has nearly 15,000 members in Oregon and southwest Washington, played a key role in crafting the legislation.

"We're proposing this because while some hospitals dedicate over 30 percent of their operating expenses on community benefits, others do less than 1 percent. Yet all receive tax exemptions," union spokesperson Rae Dunnaville told Becker's. "This isn't fair to the nonprofits living up to their missions, or our communities who are suffering under the high price of healthcare. Some of hospitals seem to need more rules to be reminded of their charitable missions."

The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems opposes the bill.

Andy Van Pelt, executive vice president at the association, said the proposed legislation is inflexible and fails to account for  all the factors playing a role in hospitals' community benefit spending..

"Hospitals need flexibility to fulfill their community benefit commitment to all the communities they serve in Oregon. There is a wide range of demographics that affect the payer mix at different hospitals, and individual facilities do serve populations that have a higher or lower portion of patients that need charity care. That can affect the amount of community benefit spending, and rigid spending requirements don't take that into account," he told Becker's.

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