Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked 10 hospitals and health systems for information on their charitable activities, patient billing and partnerships with for-profit companies. Grassley, who is preparing legislation to prevent abuse of federal tax-exempt status, requested a response to the assertion: Many not-for-profit hospitals "shift the most profitable and valuable procedures, practices and income streams" to joint ventures to share "greater profits and value ... with physicians and other for-profit persons." At deadline, officials at the 10 companies, the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals had not responded to requests for comment. Grassley also asked how the hospitals define charity care; their percentage of uninsured, Medicare and Medicaid patients; by how much charges typically exceed costs for charity care; and a detailed breakdown of travel expenses for each company's top five salaried employees, including receipts.
Grassley is not the only lawmaker eyeing not-for-profit hospitals. The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday on tax-exempt status for hospitals. And earlier this year, the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked 10 large hospital systems, including HCA and Ascension Health, to detail the full effect of billing disparities on patients and provide information about the complexity of bills sent to consumers. Grassley asked for information from Advocate Health Care and Resurrection Health Care, Illinois; Banner Health, Arizona; Cleveland Clinic; Fairview Health Systems, Minnesota; New York Presbyterian Hospital System; North Mississippi Health Services; Phoebe Putney Health Systems, Georgia; Sutter Health, California; and William Beaumont Hospital, Michigan. -- by Ralph Loos