May 5, 2010; Source: Kaiser Health News | If you want to criticize the findings of a study, attack the methodology. At least that’s the strategy that the American Hospital Association seems to be following in its response to a survey report issued on Wednesday that found that nonprofit hospitals don’t do an adequate job making communities aware of their free and discounted services.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) reports that the Access Project and Community Catalyst found that the 99 hospitals they surveyed often don’t go beyond mentions on their websites about the charity care that’s available. “A mention on the website that there’s charity care is helpful, but actually having the specific information on the policy is far more useful to a patient or potential patient,” says Mark Rukavina, director of the Boston-based Access Project.

In response, the American Hospital Association (AHA) argues that the findings aren’t meaningful because too few hospitals were surveyed. Melinda Hatton, the association’s general counsel, said, “A survey of 99 hospitals is not convincing to us. She added that “it’s out of sync: The concerns at the heart of the report have been dealt with in the health care reform bill, which we supported.”

The two groups that performed the survey say the sample size, which included small and large hospitals, fairly represents the industry. According to KHN, the new law will require nonprofit hospitals, in their next tax year to, “widely publicize their ‘financial assistance’ programs, including eligibility criteria, not charge those eligible for such assistance any more than the lowest amounts they charge people who have insurance [and] bar ‘extraordinary’ debt collection efforts until after hospitals determine whether a patient who owes money is eligible for financial assistance.”

Despite the AHA’s statement of support for the health care bill, KHN reports that the association fought some of the proposed regulations for charity care, especially requirements that hospitals make regular reports to Congress.—Bruce Trachtenberg