“They call them ‘community’ benefits for a reason.”
That’s Georgia Hospital Association (GHA) Vice President of Community Health, Joyce Reid, in last month’s Georgia Trend Magazine. A great piece by Jerry Grillo examines the billion dollars’ worth of free care Georgia’s not-for-profit hospitals deliver every year.
GHA’s 2011 Community Benefits Report itemizes $983 million annually on year on these services. Grillo points out that the number could be closer to $1 billion, as the report is based on 2009 figures.
Now in its third year, the report coincides with the IRS’s new mandate for additional community benefit.
“Hospitals have been providing these benefits for a long time,” Reid continued, “but we are in an era of increased accountability and want to help them tell their story. The main purpose of the report is to further justify what hospitals are doing for their communities, and get that information to legislators.”
The public could benefit from this information, too.
In addition to the billion spent caring for their respective communities – and remember, this is just in Georgia – not-for-profit hospitals provide immeasurable economic impact, in goods and services purchased, and through the employment of a workforce typically among the largest in most counties.
All across the nation, our hospitals are a critical cog in the infrastructure – an essential thread in the fabric of community, and a determinant of the quality of life.
Whether responding with uncompensated care, or proactively addressing local and regional health issues (several visionary strategies are explored in the article), our hospitals are working to fulfill their charitable missions, and honoring their obligation to their constituents.
Who better – indeed – who else to respond to the health needs of their respective communities?
While one could maintain that providing free care is the responsibility of the tax-exempt institution, many hospitals have gone far beyond that obligation, investing significantly in proactive programs to educate and prevent, as well as treat and cure.
GHA’s Reid again: “Hospitals can’t do this alone. They can’t just roll out a program. They have to get community involvement, school systems and faith-based organizations, public health offices.”
To her list I would add the transformational power of philanthropy. Again and again, we have witnessed the unstoppable force of impassioned volunteer leadership, in partnership with their local hospital, work tirelessly and selflessly, to enlist charitable support, and solve health local issues.
Congratulations and thanks to Georgia’s not-for-profit hospitals, and their sister institutions across the country.
T. Christian Rollins, MBA, CFRE