It's the time of year when hospitals start to send out their annual reports touting their community benefit activities and certain financial information.
Among those with much at stake in what it discloses is Provena Health, the Mokena-based Catholic hospital operator that is battling allegations from state officials that its hospital in Urbana does not deserve its property tax exemption.
Such hospital community benefit reports are becoming more important in their own right as lawmakers and state attorneys general examine the charitable missions of non-profit hospitals and whether they are doing enough to justify their tax exemptions. Some hospitals have been accused of shirking their charitable missions, particularly at a time when more Americans are uninsured and in need of low-cost or free medical care services.
In Provena's case, Illinois Department of Revenue Director Brian Hamer said last fall that Provena Covenant Medical Center's charity care in 2002 represented less than 1 percent of its revenue and was "insufficient" to get its property tax exemption restored. The Champaign County Board of Review first yanked the Urbana hospital's exemption in 2003, alleging overly aggressive attempts to collect money from poor and uninsured patients.
But Provena is appealing Hamer's ruling, saying his calculation covers only $832,000 in free care and does not include other expenses it incurs to offer community benefits.
Provena officials, who will bring oral arguments in the case before a state judge later this month in Springfield, say its Urbana hospital provided more than $13 million in care and services for which it was not compensated in 2002. At all facilities that year, Provena said, it had more than $30 million in community benefit expenses.
Of the $61.7 million in community benefit impact last year by all of Provena Health's hospitals across the state, Provena said it provided $17 million in free care to the poor, nearly $38.9 million in "non-reimbursed" services provided to patients covered by the Medicaid health insurance program for the poor and $5.7 million in community services.
Provena Health operates hospitals in Elgin, Aurora, Joliet, Kankakee, Danville and Urbana, and is one of the state's largest health-care companies.
By Provena's calculation its community benefits would amount to more than 5 percent of the total health-care system's revenue.
Provena reported an 11 percent increase in operating revenue, to $1.17 billion in 2006 from $1.05 billion a year earlier. Operating income, however, fell 33 percent, to $16.9 million.
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INSIDE HEALTH CARE