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University Hospitals Spent $383 Million On Community Benefit in 2018

University Hospitals Main Campus Cleveland [University Hospitals]
University Hospitals Main Campus Cleveland

University Hospitals system spent $383 million last year on care for low-income patients, community outreach programs, research and education in the Cleveland area, according to its 2018 Community Benefit report released Thursday.

The report details how much money the nonprofit hospital system is investing in programs that aim to improve community health, such as a free food pantry at the Otis Moss Jr. Health Center in the Fairfax neighborhood, said Heidi Gartland, vice president of government and community relations at UH.

About half, or $193 million, of the community benefit dollars, however, went toward the cost of caring for low-income patients who have Medicaid insurance, Gartland said.

“Medicaid, while it's a fabulous health care program that provides services to assure that people get wellness care, actually pays hospitals much, much less than the cost that we provide that care for,” Gartland said.

The hospital’s Medicaid shortfall dollars increased substantially between 2017 and 2018, from $144 million to $193 million, she said.

A smaller portion – about 6 percent – of  the community benefit dollars went toward free health screenings and programs that address the social determinants of health, like providing social services and legal aid for patients at the new Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in the Hough neighborhood.

UH spent $24 million of its $383 total community benefit dollars last year on these types of outreach programs, Gartland said. That is about the same amount UH spent on these programs in 2017, according to the report. However, that doesn’t reflect the true level of community outreach investments, Gartland said.

That number is actually higher than the number that we show because this is a net number. So, we continue to work philanthropically in the community to help to expand our resources as far and as wide as we can. So, yes, that program number did stay the same, but it really didn't,” Gartland said.

ideastream requested the total amount spent by UH on community outreach and health improvement programs, but the hospital system has not yet provided that figure.

UH also spent $47 million in 2018 on charity care. These dollars help cover the hospital bills of patients who can’t pay their bills. Charity care spending increased from $43 million in 2017.

The hospital system also spent $82 million on education and training of physicians, nurses and other health professionals and $37 million on clinical research.

UH, and many other hospitals, provide services to the community that are not captured in the community benefit report, Gartland said.

Many of the subsidized services that we provide –  whether it be substance abuse treatment or psychiatric treatment or even OB [obstetrics] and neonatal intensive care treatment – we are making choices to invest in these areas when we know we're going to ‘lose money’ on them,” she said.

“We're not making decisions on making profit. We are making decisions on people and investing in the community and the people that we're serving,” she added.

UH and other nonprofit hospital systems are required by the federal government to provide an annual report on community benefits spending in order to maintain nonprofit status.

UH reported a total operating revenue of $4.1 billion in 2018.

Marlene Harris-Taylor
Marlene is the director of engaged journalism at Ideastream Public Media.