Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Republican Disdain for Non-Profit Community Hospitals Showing

Dear President Bush,

Do you recall how the IRS was used by prior administrations to intimidate enemy groups or individuals? Might something similar be occurring under your administration?

The current target is non profit community hospitals and the issue is what they do to earn their tax exempt status. Last summer both the House and the Senate raised this issue. Rep. Bill Thomas, chair of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, held a hearing on the unfair tax advantages non profit hospitals have over their for profit counterparts. Senator Chuck Grassley, chair of the equally intimidating Senate Finance Committee, conducted a study on the community benefits non profit community hospitals provide and its relation to their tax exempt status. Both men have a long history of donations from for profit hospitals, nursing homes and their trade associations. Both committees' members have been saturated with donations from the for profit health care industry the last 2 election cycles.

Just this month the IRS released a compliance questionnaire for non profit community hospitals to justify their tax exempt status. It is 9 pages long and delves into everything from services offered to uncompensated care to CEO pay to billing practices.

Rather than study the issue of uncompensated care across all hospitals, non profit and for profit, the government is honing in solely on community hospitals. For over 10 years non profit hospitals have been required to publish an annual report on benefits provided to the community. For about the same length of time for profit hospitals have whined about their unfair burden of paying taxes when they are in essentially the same business.

Combine the Bush mantra of corporations are efficient with the lobbying payola to Congress and you get something like the new IRS compliance questionnaire. Didn’t you say you wanted to reduce government intrusiveness, regulations, and interference? So, why send IRS heat towards non profit community hospitals? I guess those for profit health care companies will get by with a little help from their friends in Congress and the White House….

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