Tallying Community Benefit

The Cleveland Clinic is the region's largest health system, contributing $640 million in community benefit in 2013.
The Cleveland Clinic is the region's largest health system, contributing $640 million in community benefit in 2013.

For a lot of health policy experts, like Phillip Gonzalez, this time of year is all about giving. But not the traditional holiday giving.

Gonzalez is with Community Catalyst - a national consumer health advocacy group. He says, one of the best ways for communities to know if nonprofit hospitals are meeting their federal tax-exempt obligation is to check out the end-of-year reports...

"The ideal situation is where the hospital is really engaging with its community to understand its needs, its assets and what role it- the hospital- should play in addressing the needs overall in the community," Gonzalez says.

By the numbers, the Cleveland Clinic spent about $650 million dollars on activities that federal regulators count as giving back. That includes free and supplemental care as well as medical research, outreach programs and paying for staff education. The data is from 2013, the most recent year available from tax filings.

The Clinic earned $6.8 billion in patient care revenues in 2013, according to the filing. I asked the Clinic's Chief Financial Officer Steve Glass whether the report validates the hospital's IRS exemption.

"We do," Glass says. "That's what this actually identifies is that our contribution through community benefit is significantly greater than our tax benefit."

University Hospitals - the region's second largest health system - spent about $240 million on giving back to the community. It earned $2.1 billion in patient care revenues that year.

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