Latest news coverage of hospital payments practices, including Steven Brill’s impressive “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us” and the widely-reported differences in hospital charges released in May by Medicare, has motivated discussion about the value that medical centers deliver. Hospitals and wellness systems that can expertly convert their business models and engage non-traditional associates and areas to improve group health will flourish in a post-reform environment. Those that remain dedicated to increasing billable solutions as their main objective will increasingly be considered with uncertainty by their customers and communities, undercutting their recognized value.
Community benefits programs will play an essential role in this tectonic move in how health is recognized and obtained. Most medical centers and wellness systems in the United States are integrated as not-for-profit organizations. To maintain their tax exceptions, charitable medical centers must devote a portion of their revenue to provide benefits to the community. The latest research of the tax records registered by more than 1,800 charitable medical centers, released in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that more than 85 percent of the $13 billion dollars medical centers stated as community benefits programs took the form of reduced or uncompensated health care solutions.
What is the future of community benefits programs after we apply the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and state health reforms? How will charitable medical centers devote their community benefits dollars after millions of Americans have health coverage, reducing the need for uncompensated care? The answers to these questions will affect areas far beyond health care. Health change provides opportunities for wellness systems to work with new associates and arrange their community benefits investment strategies toward main avoidance techniques that will make healthier communities. In fact, some forward-thinking medical centers already are. For example, between 2003 and 2011, Kaiser Permanente spent $236 million in its seven service areas through its Community Health Effort, which facilitates systems such as enhancing access to affordable, healthy food, and enhancing community facilities to advertise daily exercising.