SAN FRANCISCO: A report that looks at spending and service provisions by non-profit hospitals has been heavily criticized by the head of the California Hospital Association (CHA).
CHA president and CEO, C. Duane Dauner said that the report is a classic example of 'a solution in search of a problem'.
"Many of the recommendations noted in the report, published by the Greenlining Institute are already standard practice and included in existing law," Dauner said.
The report looks at community benefit programs. But according to the CHA, it's heavy on political rhetoric and light on substance.
NOT FOR PROFIT
The CEO also stated that the report relies on inaccuracies and faulty assumptions to criticize what he called a a 'robust, effective and transparent program'. He complemented the partnership between not-for-profit hospitals and the communities they serve, including public and private stakeholders.
"Not-for-profit hospitals invest millions of dollars annually in funding a wide-range of community benefit programs aimed at under served communities, including mobile health vans, medical re-coupment beds for homeless patients and outpatient clinics in low-income neighborhoods," Dauner said.
"Hospitals work closely with local stakeholders to develop plans tailored to the local population. Priorities in San Diego are different than in Sacramento or San Francisco, and publicly-accessible, hospital community benefit plans illustrate this fact," he added.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
According to Dauner, California's hospitals are focused on successfully implementing the landmark, federal, Affordable Care Act (ACA) and expanding access to quality health care for millions of people in the future. He said that local community priorities will change as the ACA is implemented and hospitals' plans will be adjusted to meet these new challenges.
The importance of locally-developed community benefit plans as part of ACA was also highlighted by Dauner who insisted that these tailored plans should not be replaced with a 'one-size-fits-all mandate from Sacramento'.
"That would undermine the ability of hospitals to meet their community's specific needs," he said.
In the report, scheduled for release tomorrow (Wednesday), Greenlining suggests that new legislation is needed in order to better align California law with the Affordable Care Act. It claims that the current reporting requirements do not foster transparency.
However, current state law requires that community needs assessments include a process for consulting with community groups and local government officials. The law requires not-for-profit hospitals to conduct this assessment every three years and submit a copy of the plan annually to the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD).
The report also suggests that hospitals should be responsible for changing the conditions in which people 'live, work and play'. But SB 697 legislation passed in 1994, makes no such requirements.
THE CHA said that the law does not require not-for-profit hospitals to become social organizations, and are not paid to get involved in people's housing, work and recreational lives.
The CHA met with representatives of the Greenlining Institute in August and directed their representatives to the OSHPD website to note publicly available information. Additionally, CHA offered to work with Greenlining on its upcoming presentation, but received no response.
NOT FOR PROFIT EXAMPLES
Sacramento: Dignity Health, Kaiser-Permanente, and Sutter Health jointly fund community benefit programs like Sacramento Covered, which helps low-income families obtain health insurance, and WellSpace Health, which operates a shelter for those who are temporarily homeless.
"Most communities, like Sacramento County in this region, lack a real blanket of care for low-income people," said Dr. Jonathan Porteus, CEO of WellSpace Health.
"Community benefit is the thing that's helped us, more than anything, build that blanket of care.
San Fernando Valley: Providence Health & Services – Southern California funds a mobile screening clinic that travels throughout the region's neighborhoods five days a week, supporting low-income and disadvantaged residents. The program is coordinated with area churches to help reach at-risk populations.
Dr. Glenn Lopez, director of the mobile clinic program said: "Everybody benefits, primarily the patients, because they don't have to wait until their conditions are out of control".
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