Hospital community work benefits us all by targeting the root of health needs: Brian Lane


CLEVELAND – There is not enough public funding to meet the growing needs that demand a share. It’s true. How to fix it and who should do more?

Every few years, when the options for fixing problems seem slim, an old argument resurfaces suggesting that nonprofit hospitals aren’t doing enough and the solution is to tax them. But just because the argument keeps coming up doesn’t mean it’s good.

What are the facts ? In 2019, hospitals in Greater Cleveland spent more than $ 2.4 billion on activities and services benefiting our shared community. This is the amount it cost them after any refund they received.

What activities and services do hospitals offer to the community? Write off the cost of care for patients who cannot afford it. Subsidize the cost of care that is not fully reimbursed by public programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Conduct research to advance medical care for all of us. Train the next generation of caregivers. Make direct and in-kind donations to other nonprofit organizations serving the community. And carry out a whole series of activities to improve community health, ranging from providing clinics and screening to support for infrastructure such as public transport and housing to improving access to healthcare. food.

And that only scratches the surface. A comprehensive list of what hospitals are doing to help their communities would far exceed the inches allotted for this column.

In 2019, hospitals in Cuyahoga County met with public health officials and other organizations to collaborate on a community health needs assessment. Through this partnership, they pooled their resources to better understand the unmet health needs of the community. This assessment not only captured information on the incidence of the disease, it also looked upstream at what are known as the social determinants of health. These are the factors we encounter where we live, learn, work and play that impact our health, such as access to healthy food, transportation, safe housing and education. Meeting these needs can help prevent disease and illness and lead to better treatment results.

With this assessment and the action plan that emerged from it, hospitals in Northeast Ohio are working with people and organizations across the community to address these issues upstream. They are engaged in efforts to eliminate systemic racism. They collaborate with each other and with other organizations through First Year Cleveland to reduce child mortality, for example, through the “CenteringPregnancy” program. They are working together through the Northeast Ohio Hospital Opioid Consortium on solutions to the opioid crisis, such as training caregivers to help them better understand how to care for patients with opioid use disorders.

Over the past year, Greater Cleveland Health Systems have been leaders in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, working together to set up testing sites; respond to the governor’s call to triple their capacity; assist long-term care providers; provide vaccines. And they did these things while suspending elective procedures and experiencing substantial drops in their income.

All of this is outside the role of hospitals as employers in the community. In 2019, hospitals in Northeast Ohio paid nearly $ 8.7 billion in salaries and benefits. Hospitals are also among the biggest buyers of goods and services, pumping more dollars into our economy and creating more jobs.

The problems to be solved are numerous and require significant investments. The nonprofit community, including hospitals, needs more help addressing the issues that keep everyone in Northeast Ohio from achieving health and wellness. Taxing hospitals would only compromise the large amount of hard-hitting work they already do, and do even more during a pandemic when resources are more limited than ever. We need to change the discourse on taxing hospitals and instead recognize the depth and breadth of the work they do to care for our community.

Brian Lane is President and CEO of the Center for Health Affairs, an association representing 36 hospitals in nine counties in northeastern Ohio.

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