Regarding the article 'Uncompensated care' not clearly defined, IRS finds:
The only way to curb the abuse of nonprofit status is to hold hospitals to the fire of line-item review in much the same way as ordinary citizens of this country are treated by the Internal Revenue Service. Unfortunately, a vast majority of taxpayers do not have lobbyists or associations like the American Hospital Association backing their cause.
Hospitals follow very simple accounting principles. They bill a large amount to the uninsured patient. This could include such absurdities as $100 for a Tylenol tablet or $20,000 for an appendectomy or thousands of dollars a day for the rooms. They will harass them to collect the amount. Most of the really poor people cannot pay or just refuse to pay. The hospital files this as a charge toward the uncompensated care and gets a tax relief on the computed cost of care.
If IRS audits them, they are on sound footing as they will show that they made reasonable effort to collect their bounty. This is why an uninsured patient is billed five to 10 times the amount that insurance companies or Medicare contract with nonprofit hospitals.
Doctors on medical staffnot the paid employees/hospitalists of the hospitalwho are called in to treat these patients do not get paid anything. Private practitioners like me have to spend enormous amounts of time treating hospitalized indigent patients while getting no compensation or tax breaks. In my own case this amounts to about 10% to 15% of my time.
If the IRS really feels the tax breaks to nonprofit hospitals are fair, IRS could consider giving private physicians who treat indigent patients the same kind of tax breaks that they bestow upon the hospitals. This might cure the shortage of primary-care doctors in this country.
It is absurdities like these that have made the U.S. a laughing stock of the civilized world and Michael Moore a billionaire!
Narayanachar Murali, M.D.Gastroenterology Associates of OrangeburgDigestive Endoscopy CenterOrangeburg, S.C.
Most hospitals aim for the black
In my experience, most hospitalseven nonprofitstry to run as heavy in the black as possible each year and complain when a year is less than the previous year. All hospitals get paid less than they bill. To classify this as charity is a joke at least and fraud at best.
Samuel PerroniLittle Rock, Ark.
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