Despite heated criticism of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations by many hospital groups, the two camps are united on at least one issue.
That alliance is in Illinois, where two hospital trade groups have come to the JCAHO's aid in its battle to preserve its property-tax exemption.
Many state hospital associations, including the Illinois Hospital Association, have been critical of such JCAHO policies as the organization's Continued on clinical indicator monitoring system and its plans to publicly release hospital-specific accreditation data.
They've accused the JCAHO of forgetting that hospitals pay millions of dollars in survey fees and, hence, are the JCAHO's main customers.
But in a brief filed with an Illinois appellate court, the IHA and the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council portrayed hospitals' relationship with the JCAHO much differently.
In their friend-of-the-court brief, the IHA and MCHC urged the appeals court to uphold the JCAHO's historic property-tax exemption as a public charity under Illinois law despite a record $5.2 million in profits last year (See related story, p. 18).
The 2nd District Appellate Court of Illinois in Elgin, Ill., is hearing the JCAHO's appeal of a lower-court decision that stripped the organization of its property-tax exemption.
In June, Judge Bonnie Wheaton of the DuPage County (Ill.) Circuit Court said the JCAHO serves the private interests of the facilities it accredits, not the public, and it generates substantial profits from charging for services, not from charitable sources (July 25, p. 3).
But the IHA and MCHC said Judge Wheaton misinterpreted Illinois law in denying the JCAHO's tax exemption.
Specifically, the groups said the JCAHO's excess revenues aren't illegal profits because they don't benefit individuals or shareholders but rather are reinvested in furthering the organization's charitable activities. If the court's definition of profits is upheld, any not-for-profit hospital in Illinois that generates excess revenues could be targeted by tax assessors, they said.
They also said the ultimate beneficiary of the JCAHO's services is the public, not hospitals.
"The (JCAHO's) standards are designed to protect patients," they said. "The members of the general public, as the patients who receive improved healthcare, are the direct and actual beneficiaries of the (JCAHO's) services-not the surveyed and accredited healthcare providers."