Maryland’s hospitals get millions of dollars in tax breaks each year, which they are supposed to be using to fund community benefits programs that make our communities healthier. For neighborhoods struggling with crumbling schools, substandard housing, poor air quality, and a lack of natural spaces, hospital community benefits spending offers the opportunity for investments in initiatives that will improve community health.
But Maryland law does not specify any minimum level of community benefit spending that a hospital must provide to qualify for its tax-exempt status.
A recent report reviewed and analyzed all FY 2018 financial and narrative community benefits reports and found serious problems, including:
A lack of transparency:
Hospitals are not reporting the value of their tax exemptions; therefore, the public cannot determine whether their charitable work is commensurate to the value of the tax exemptions they receive.
A lack of accountability:
Hospitals are filing financial reports that claim as community benefits activities for which hospitals have already been reimbursed. Additionally, it is unclear how much current community benefits spending directly supports programming and initiatives designed to improve population health outcomes.
A lack of community input:
According to the reports, too many hospitals are not adequately engaging communities in their development of Community Health Needs Assessments. Furthermore, many community benefit implementation plans lack community collaboration.