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Healthy Conversations with Saint Alphonsus

Nonprofit Health Systems Produce Value for Our Communities

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Two weeks ago, I wrote an article for the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine about what it means to be a nonprofit healthcare provider.  As a Catholic healthcare organization, we have a high standard for meeting the needs of the communities we serve.  I hope this gives you a better understanding of what we do as a nonprofit health system:

Over the past few years, nonprofit health care organizations nationwide have been under scrutiny regarding whether their tax exemptions are justified. As a faith-based, nonprofit health system, Saint Alphonsus takes the responsibility of our nonprofit status very seriously.

Saint Alphonsus works singularly and collaboratively to improve the overall health in the communities we serve by reinvesting excess revenues (or “profits”) back into those communities — through new technologies, vital health services, and access for all. If we were a for-profit entity, these profits would more likely be divided up and go into investors’ pockets.

When contrasting nonprofit versus for-profit health care systems, it is important to note some key distinctions.

Nonprofit health care serves as a critical safety net for the community, offering programs and resources to help the poor and vulnerable among us and addressing some of society’s most troubling social problems: mental health, substance abuse, access to care, provider shortages, disparities in care and more.

In nonprofit health care, we are accountable by federal law to conduct community health needs assessments every three years and develop implementation plans addressing the highest priority needs. This requirement has helped spur collaboration among competing nonprofit health care providers in our community, whereas for-profit providers have no such accountability to collaborate for the good of the community.

For example, these community needs assessments have identified mental health issues as a consistent priority in our region. Internally, we have responded by providing in-patient and out-patient psychiatric care. Externally, we have collaborated in establishing the Allumbaugh House, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline and the Idaho Psychiatric Residency to train more psychiatrists.

Our Community Benefit Ministry is part of the fabric of our mission — a faith-based imperative that has endured since the pioneering Sisters of the Holy Cross opened the first Saint Alphonsus Hospital in Boise in 1894. While federal law has only recently dictated community needs assessments, Saint Alphonsus has been doing community needs assessments and strategically addressing community needs for many years.

While it might be perceived that nonprofit health care organizations are exempt from all taxes, that is not the case. We pay property taxes on 35 percent of the properties we own, contributing $627,000 in Idaho property taxes in 2013. We also paid $178,000 in sales tax.

In addition, nonprofit health care organizations serve as major economic drivers and job creators. For our Idaho facilities alone, Saint Alphonsus employs more than 4,600 people, paid wages in excess of $259 million in 2013, and paid more than $11 million in Idaho income taxes.

Our local nonprofit health systems compete in the marketplace, and some people think nonprofits should not compete. But our local communities benefit from having two strong health systems that drive each other to innovate and improve. In a marketplace with only one hospital, consumers would have no choice for comparing cost or quality.

When it comes to innovating and transforming health care without leaving the most vulnerable citizens behind — if not for nonprofit health care, then what?

To see this article in the Idaho Statesman, click here.


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