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Hospitals Exceed Pledge, Increasing Total Community Benefit In Oregon

State data released today showed Oregon hospitals not only achieved their 2015 pledge to maintain their overall community benefit levels but exceeded it. They did this despite a significant drop in charity care as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Hospitals increased services in community benefit areas other than charity care by $230 million in 2015 as compared with average levels over the previous three years.

Meanwhile, overall community benefit totals in 2015 reached record highs – totaling more than $1.9 billion, which was up nearly $60 million from 2014’s total. This came despite a 52 percent drop in the need for charity care from average levels over the previous three years. And hospitals gave back at these levels while providing for 346,000 inpatient discharges, more than 11 million total outpatient visits, and more than 1.4 million emergency room visits.

“No other state in the nation has a more proactive approach by hospitals to provide core community benefit at the local level. We are extremely proud of the findings in the OHA’s report and are committed to ongoing policy discussions this legislative session around how we continue to provide this critical community benefit across our entire state,” said Andy Davidson, president and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.  “At the same time, we have to keep our eyes on the federal landscape as the insurance coverage levels brought about by the Affordable Care Act have enabled Oregon’s community hospitals to exceed their own community benefits pledge.  We are working with our Congressional delegation to ensure they understand the direct linkage between the expanded coverage afforded by the ACA and continued increases in community benefits. We are confident that the entire delegation is committed to minimizing any unintended consequences that could arise from changes to current federal law.”

In early 2015 hospitals announced their new community benefit policy, knowing that the health care model was rapidly shifting with the expansion of Medicaid in Oregon. At that same time, they announced a voluntary expansion of their policy for free care, which would now allow people and families who earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level to receive free care.

In 2007, the Oregon legislature created the categories for community benefit, which is defined as health care-related services that hospitals provide without the expectation of compensation. These services include (but are not limited to):
  1. Health services to vulnerable or underserved people
  2. Financial or in-kind support for public health programs
  3. Health education, health screenings, and prevention services
  4. Medical research and health professions education
  5. Community-building activities such as neighborhood revitalization projects, or workforce development programs
“Our community hospitals recognize that because of a drop in charity care, they are now able to direct their community benefit efforts to programs and activities that enable Oregonians to get healthy and stay healthy,” concluded Davidson.