VIDEO: Improving hospital community benefit spending

All nonprofit hospitals are expected to provide financial assistance and other programs to improve community health — but some hospitals spend much more on these items than others. How can we encourage all hospitals to become true community partners and to follow the lead of the most socially responsible?

At a webinar hosted by Community Catalyst, Lown Institute president Dr. Vikas Saini and senior policy analyst Judith Garber shared the Lown Hospitals Index findings around racial inclusivity and fair share spending– two of the many novel metrics on the ranking. They provided insight into the gaps in regulation around hospital community investment and recommendations to community groups on how they can advocate for transparent and impactful community benefit spending.

The Lown Hospitals Index for Social Responsibility is the first to rank hospitals nationwide by their community benefit spending. The community benefit category evaluates how much hospitals spend on financial assistance for low-income patients and other community investments, as well as their service of Medicaid patients.

The following hospitals have the highest rankings on community benefit in the country, indicating their commitment to serving all who come through their doors and investing in the health of their surrounding neighborhoods.

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The vast majority of these hospitals are public hospitals in major metro areas. On average, these twenty hospitals spent 11% of their expenses on financial assistance (the national average is less than 3%) and had 43% of their patient revenue from Medicaid (the national average is 16%). Of the few private hospitals on this list with IRS data available, they spent an average of 11% of expenses on programs to improve community health; the average US hospital spent only 2%.

The wide variety in community benefit spending across hospitals shows how much we rely on safety net institutions to provide care to everyone who needs it. As we congratulate these high-performing hospitals for their pivotal role, we must hold other hospitals accountable for fulfilling their charitable mission.