Opportunity for news stories: New federal rules mean all nonprofit hospitals must do a community health needs assessment

It’s long been the rule that nonprofit hospitals have had to provide charitable benefits to their community in order to keep their nonprofit status. That’s no small matter, given that 60 percent of the nation’s almost 3,000 hospitals are nonprofits and those tax benefits equal $12.6 billion annually. The benefits those hospitals provide have usually come in form of care for those unable to afford it, but it’s unclear how, and how much, hospitals spend on community benefits has led to increased oversight by the Internal Revenue Service and Congress.

This year, there’s a new kink for nonprofit hospitals and one that is important to every community those hospitals serve — and a golden opportunity for every news outlet that reports on them. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires each nonprofit hospital to conduct a community health needs assessment, which must include a wide variety of community stakeholder input, prioritize needs, and eventually, when completed, be made widely available to the public. As explained by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the assessment does more. It “offers an opportunity for the entire community to work together to collectively improve health.” Participants can include health systems, health departments and other government agencies, community organizations, employers, the faith community, the United Way and other non-profits, local funding organizations, academic institutions, and other community leaders.

To read the issue brief and find more resources about the benefit and programs associated with it, go here.

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