Viewpoint: NEJM article uses 'sketchy math' to attack hospitals

The American Hospital Association called an opinion article published July 15 in The New England Journal of Medicine "another unfair assault on the only sector in health care that routinely gives back so much more to their communities than they receive in tax relief."

The NEJM article, "Do Nonprofit Hospitals Deserve Their Tax Exemption?" was supported by Arnold Ventures, an organization that offers grants to fund criminal justice initiatives, and was written by Ge Bai, PhD, professor of accounting at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School and professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Sunjay Letchuman, medical student at the New York City-based Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; and David Hyman, MD, professor at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.

"This article should be understood for what it is: just another attempt by a deep-pocketed organization with a biased agenda to attack hospitals," Melinda Hatton, AHA general counsel and secretary, wrote in a blog article posted to AHA's website on July 15.

"It is particularly ironic for an enterprise that relies, in part, on tax exemptions to advance that agenda," Ms. Hatton wrote.

The NEJM article "misrepresents" the 340B program and "downplays" the critically important benefits hospitals provide in vulnerable communities.

"Employing sketchy math, the piece suggests that supporting vulnerable patients by backstopping a federal program (Medicaid) that routinely underpays hospitals for the cost of services they provide is a contest between hospitals instead of an essential benefit deserving of full credit," wrote Ms. Hatton.

Read AHA's entire response article here.

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