An Internal Revenue Service interim report summarizing responses from nearly 500 tax-exempt hospitals to a May 2006 questionnaire about how they provide and report community benefits found that nearly all hospitals reported that they provided various types of community benefit, and 97% of the responding hospitals said that they have a written uncompensated-care policy, the IRS said.
But the agency also complained that no uniform definition of what constitutes uncompensated care came into focus from the responses, and there appear to be significant differences in the way other community benefits are reported.
The lack of consistency or uniformity in classifying and reporting uncompensated care and various types of community benefit often makes it difficult to assess whether a hospital is in compliance with current law, said Lois Lerner, director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division in a news release.
The IRS cautioned that the report contains preliminary information and that it is still analyzing the reported data. While the interim report is only a summary and not an analysis, the IRS hospital project team did recommend developing a separate Form 990 schedule for hospitals to address the lack of uniformity, the agency noted. -- by Cinda Becker