The Norman Transcript


November 3, 2013

State hospitals spend small percentages on charity care



Questions on how much

Some states have revoked or threatened to revoke hospitals’ tax exemptions due to a relatively low level of charity care. In 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that a hospital in Urbana did not qualify as tax exempt because it provided charity care to less than one-half of 1 percent of the patients it served.

Rick Snyder, vice president of financial and information services for the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said a hospital’s level of charity care often depends on the makeup of its surrounding community, including the number of uninsured people. Another factor is the scope of a hospital’s services, which affects how many low-income people are treated.

Snyder said nonprofit and publicly owned hospitals should provide at least some level of charity care to patients.

The association has not taken a position on whether nonprofit and publicly run hospitals should be required to offer certain levels of charity care. In Texas, nonprofit hospitals must provide at least 4 percent of their patient revenue toward charity care.

If the issue were to arise in Oklahoma, the association’s board would determine a position, he said.

“We think that it’s obviously an important role for the community hospital to provide care to people who need it,” Snyder said. He added that the association favors Oklahoma expanding its Medicaid program to access federal funds and reduce the amount of charity care needed by patients.

About 650,000 Oklahomans lack health insurance and the state ranks No. 5 in the nation for the number of uninsured.

Anderson said by rejecting the Medicaid expansion, Oklahoma is “donating to the health and welfare of other states.”

“It’s like a hidden tax,” he said.

Congressman Mullin said while he continues to oppose “Obamacare” and its mandates, he believes hospital executives and other medical providers should be part of the conversation about how to improve health care.

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