A California legislator, backed by health-care advocacy groups and the state nurses' union, has introduced a measure to tighten regulations on how nonprofit hospitals define and report the community benefit they provide, the weekly East Bay Express writes. State Sen. Bob Wieckowski's bill would define charity care strictly as free or discounted treatment for the uninsured or underinsured and set new requirements for hospitals' spending on health needs in the areas they serve.
This is the third straight year the Bay Area Democrat has sponsored legislation aimed at reforming the process by which nonprofit hospitals justify their tax exemptions. Past bills failed in the face of strong opposition from the California Hospital Association, which argues that its members already provide extensive community benefit and that new rules would add unnecessary red tape to the process. Critics of the current system say the regulations are vague and allow hospitals to include things like marketing initiatives and writing off patient debt as community benefit.