To determine if greater non-profit hospital spending for community benefits is associated with better health outcomes in the county where they are located.
Data Sources and Study Setting
Community benefit data from IRS Form 990/Schedule H was linked to health outcome data from Area Health Resource Files, Map the Meal Gap, and Medicare claims from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the county level. Counties with at least one non-profit hospital in the United States from 2015 to 2019 (N=5469 across the 5years) were included.
We ran multiple regressions on community benefit expenditures linked with the number of health professionals, food insecurity, and adherence to diabetes and hypertension medication for each county.
The three outcomes were chosen based on prior studies of community benefit and a recent survey sent to 12 health care executives across four regions of the U.S. Data on community benefit expenditures and health outcomes were aggregated at the county level.
Average hospital community benefit spending in 2019 was $63.6 million per county ($255 per capita). Multivariable regression results did not demonstrate significant associations of total community benefit spending with food insecurity or medication adherence for diabetes. Statistically significant associations with the number of health professionals per 1000 (coefficient, 12.10; SE, 0.32; p < 0.001) and medication adherence for hypertension (marginal effect, 0.27; SE, 0.09; p=0.003) were identified, but both would require very large increases in community benefit spending to meaningfully improve outcomes.
Despite varying levels of non-profit hospital community benefit investment across counties, higher community benefit expenditures are not associated with an improvement in the selected health outcomes at the county level. Hospitals can use this information to reassess community benefit strategies, while federal, state, and local governments can use these findings to redefine the measures of community benefit they use to monitor and grant tax exemption.
Wen, G., Zare, H., Eisenberg, M.D., et al. (2022). Association between non-profit hospital community benefit spending and health outcomes. Health Services Research.https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6773.14060