It’s common nowadays to see nonprofit healthcare organizations congratulated blithely for “caring” more for patients than their for-profit counterparts. Nonprofits are exempted from paying state and local taxes because they presumably spend that money on charitable services. 

But as Carolina Journal reported in a recent news story, “a majority of the state’s hospitals are reaping the benefits of tax-exempt status but come up short in providing adequate charity care to earn that designation — and they’re getting away with it.” The revelation reflected the findings of a Johns Hopkins University study commissioned by the State Health Plan, which debunked nonprofits’ pious portrayal by the mainstream media. 

The state’s largest nonprofit hospital systems received more than $1.8 billion in annual tax breaks, but for most of them, the value of their charity care was less than 60% of their tax write-downs, the expert analysis found. That’s way off-kilter. 

Furthermore, the same study found that for-profit hospitals spent more on charity care than nonprofits. This should bring down to earth the inflated reputation of tax-exempt hospitals. 

Our elected officials should examine carefully why those “nonprofits” get so much benefit for so little contribution to their communities, which is a rotten deal for the state’s taxpayers. 

Meanwhile, we should commend for-profit hospitals for living up to the care standard we expect in the medical profession while contributing much more to their communities through local and state taxes that support public services. 

J.L. Riddick III

Raleigh, NC