Not-for-profit hospitals earn their tax-exempt status by providing their communities with valuable services that go beyond charity care, but they should disclose prices to the public, industry officials told the House Ways and Means Committee's subcommittee on oversight. The three-and-a-half-hour hearing, the first in a series on whether tax-exempt organizations merit their preferred status, was devoted to hospitals and touched on a range of issues including Medicare payments, quality of care, the uninsured and executive compensation. Although several witnesses agreed that not-for-profit hospitals should disclose prices, Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, said that doing so would lead to higher prices "because of how hospitals would use that information."
Separately, witnesses at a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, which is considering reforms to regulations governing tax-exempt organizations, called for changes to the 990 tax form to yield more accurate and timely information. They also said charitable organizations should be audited more often and there should be greater regulatory oversight of charities' governing boards. A current draft of staff discussion points for the committee includes a proposal for a federal review of tax-exempt organizations every five years to determine if they continue "to be organized and operated exclusively for an exempt purpose." -- by Jeff Tieman and Tony Fong