To qualify for tax-exempt status, nonprofit hospitals must allocate some of their resources to benefit their communities.
In 2012, New Jersey hospitals provided $2.56 billion in benefits to their communities above and beyond the health care services they provided to patients, according to the New Jersey Hospital Association.
That figure includes free and discounted care for the poor, uninsured and senior citizens; immunization clinics and other wellness programs; education of health care professionals and medical research, according to the NJHA report.
Betsy Ryan, chief executive of the NJHA, said the impact of hospitals is far greater than most realize.
“If you go to the local mall on the weekend and get a free flu shot, that may be run by a hospital,” she said. “The message is that hospitals are an essential part of the community and want to give back.”
According to the NJHA, the IRS doesn't require a set level of community support by hospitals, known as their community benefit, but the nonprofit hospitals are required to report on these activities to the agency.
Barnabas Health, the state's largest health care system, said it provided more than $220 million in benefits to the community in 2012, including charity care, unpaid Medicaid programs, donations to organizations, research and education, and other community programs.
Among the community benefit programs from Barnabas:
The Beth Challenge began at Newark Beth Israel as a small weight-loss contest modeled after the “Biggest Loser” and evolved into a sustainable nutrition and exercise program that has helped the hospital's employees and the community lose more than 18,000 pounds. It is now offered in houses of worship, schools, government offices and the Newark Fire Department.
The Beth Garden at Newark Beth Israel began as an indoor farmer's market in the lobby and grew into a working farm in a vacant lot across the street from the emergency department.
Hackensack University Medical Center said in 2012 it provided more than $225 million in charity care and other community benefits.
Hackensack said its unreimbursed charity care comprises about 25 percent of the entire state of New Jersey's unreimbursed charity care. And Hackensack said its physician network is the single largest provider of services to Medicaid patients in its North Jersey service area.
The Health Awareness Regional Program at HackensackUMC administers free professional public health services to 29 Bergen County municipalities. Some of the programs include:
Ryan said hospitals are doing more in terms of wellness than ever before.
“That includes preventive care and aligning with doctors in the community to ensure that people are getting the checkups they need and the care that will keep them out of the hospital,” she said.
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