State Senator: More Charity Care Is Needed At Illinois Hospitals

UPDATED 08/17/11 12:36 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois State Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) is using a state decision to end tax breaks for some hospitals, as a lever to produce more charity care for the needy.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, the Illinois Department of Revenue ruled that Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Prentice Women’s Hospital, Edward Hospital in Naperville and Decatur Memorial Hospital will no longer be granted property tax exemptions granted to non-profit hospitals, because their facilities operate more like businesses than charities.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

The Illinois Constitution exempts any places used exclusively for charitable purposes from paying property tax. But the Revenue Department said that the three hospitals weren’t doing enough free or discounted treatment of the poor to qualify for the exemption.

Martinez says the decision should get the State Hospital Association back to the bargaining table so state lawmakers can negotiate for more charity care.

“If it takes the rest of the year, and into next year, until we can create legislation that we can actually put in place, that will make sure and guarantee a fair share of charity care for all, then that’s what I’m going to do,” Martinez said.

Martinez says the State Hospital Association killed her bill requiring 3.5 percent charity care for all hospitals. She now plans to resurrect the bill.

Joining Martinez in a news conference at the Thompson Center downtown was Fair Share Coalition director Diane Lemus, who said some Chicago hospitals were earning their non-profit status.

“The safety-net hospitals are like Norwegian (American) Hospital, like Mercy Hospital, like Swedish (Covenant) Hospital, (Stroger) County Hospital, who take a lot of the Medicare and Medicaid patients,” she said.

But amputee Carlos Cardenas said going to a hospital was devastating for him, as he lacked insurance for a major operation.

He said St. Joseph Hospital did a good job amputating his leg and doing rehab, but then problems started, given that he was unemployed with so savings.

“So after I was discharged, I began to receive bills for upwards of $50,000. Soon these bills became letters from collection agencies,” Cardenas said. “I had been upfront with the hospital that I did not have insurance, or the means to pay my bills.”

Meanwhile, the Revenue Department also is reviewing property tax exemption applications from 15 other hospitals.

  • David

    I don’t see how removing the tax exemption or providing free care will lower the cost of my health insurance. Aren’t they moving backwards? I’d like to see our lawmakers try and do things to lower my costs, not make them go up.

  • Jim

    I would like to see a system in which you have to pay for services that you receive. What a concept huh? Then maybe my wife can get her nails done too!

  • Bring Your Loofah

    Iris, start bathing the elderly this weekend.

  • JB

    Leave it to a minority to ask for more handouts. It’s not that they can’t pay, it’s that they don’t want to.

  • notmd

    follow this scenario..

    hospital A does not invest in getting people covered into the medicaid program and uses software to make it easy to declare charity care..result high charity care writeoffs..less people with insurance..more use of the emergency room

    hospital B invests in staff and aggressively pursues coverage for the patient so they can see doctors and get prescriptions filled and be assigned a PCP..less charity care write offs..higher conversions to state program..people receiving the right care in the right location..

    which hospital is doing the right thing?

    by pushing hospitals to have higher charity care ,you are actually hurting the majority of the patients in their long term care care is not insurance and creates an incentive for patients not to be enrolled in a program..i thought we are trying to improve the quality of health care and reduce admissions?..

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live