Analysis of Hospital Community Benefit Expenditures’ Alignment With Community Health Needs: Evidence From a National Investigation of Tax-Exempt Hospitals

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Abstract

Objectives

We investigated whether federally tax-exempt hospitals consider community health needs when deciding how much and what types of community benefits to provide.

Methods

Using 2009 data from hospital tax filings to the Internal Revenue Service and the 2010 County Health Rankings, we employed both univariate and multivariate analyses to examine the relationship between community health needs and the types and levels of hospitals’ community benefit expenditures. The study sample included 1522 private, tax-exempt hospitals throughout the United States.

Results

We found some patterns between community health needs and hospitals’ expenditures on community benefits. Hospitals located in communities with greater health needs spent more as a percentage of their operating budgets on benefits directly related to patient care. By contrast, spending on community health improvement initiatives was unrelated to community health needs.

Conclusions

Important opportunities exist for tax-exempt hospitals to improve the alignment between their community benefit activities and the health needs of the community they serve. The Affordable Care Act requirement that hospitals conduct periodic community health needs assessments may be a first step in this direction.

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