August 18, 2010; Source: The Gazette | A commission charged with figuring out the future of Colorado City’s city-owned Memorial Health System has been asking other cities about their experience converting from public to nonprofit hospital status. The CEO of Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare in Carson City, Nevada, explained the why’s and how’s behind his hospital’s decision.

From the Gazette’s coverage, it looks like the Colorado City people seem to be strongly in favor of converting to nonprofit status. But the Gazette seemed to underemphasize a point made by the Carson Tahoe executive. In Carson City, the county commission decided to sell the public hospital to a new nonprofit for $1, but as part of the transaction, it required the nonprofit to provide indigent care in perpetuity. Everyone ought to know that the performance of public hospitals in providing care for the indigent makes nonprofit hospitals look like for-profits.

Let’s hope that the indigent care message sinks in with the Colorado Springs decision-makers, else Colorado Springs will be heading down the path of many other communities in this health reform environment where the poor who won’t qualify for federal coverage (such as undocumented immigrants) will be left without a regular, affordable resource for medical care.—Rick Cohen