Wisconsins 132 hospitals said they provided $900.4 million in charity care and community benefits in 2005, based on accounting and disclosure methods advocated by the Catholic Health Association and endorsed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). The hospitals will publish aggregate data online Oct. 18 at www.wiservepoint.org. As recommended by the CHA, the total wont include losses from unpaid bills or costs not fully covered by Medicare. A 15-member task force of the Wisconsin Hospital Association developed the voluntary reporting program. Terri Potter, president of Meriter Health Services, Madison, said the states hospitals wanted to have the most conservative, defensible definition of their community benefits. The hospitals decided they needed to publish their contributions in the face of growing public and political pressure to justify tax-exempt status, said Rick Palagi, chief executive officer at Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital, Prairie due Sac, Wis., and a member of the task force. The WHA said all but two of its members are not-for-profit.
The total figure includes $158.9 million in charity care, $518.5 million for uncovered Medicaid costs, $22.8 million in losses under other public programs and $15 million for nursing home losses. In the future, the report may include individual hospital expenses as standards for reporting and accounting of community benefits improve, Palagi said. -- by Melanie Evans