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Food Banks Struggle with Economy, Unemployment
Sept 14, 2009; Reuters | Although the above headline is beginning to sound on a par with “Dog Bites Man,” it’s the enormity of the impact of the economy that continues to be newsworthy. In a survey of 205 food banks across the U.S., 99% “reported a significant surge in demand for emergency food assistance.” More sobering, 55% of food banks admitted “that they or the agencies who help distribute the food they provide have had to turn people away in the last year.”  —Timothy Lyster

Charity Care Minimum for Nonprofit Hospitals Dropped From Baucus Health Care Proposal
Sept 14, 2009; DailyTax Report | It is hard to fathom, but the national debate on health care reform is moving in reverse gear.  Leaders of both political parties are competing to see who can appear more anti-immigrant in their vociferous statements that “illegal immigrants” will not receive a dime’s worth of coverage under comprehensive health care reform.  The clearly necessary public option (which should be a single-payer system, but let’s call it “public option” for the purpose of how it is named in current political discourse) is fading from the legislation in favor of unworkable and inadequate nonprofit cooperatives.  After the President’s recent speech to Congress on health reform (the Joe Wilson “you lie” speech), insurance companies announced they felt much better than they did before about the White House plan.  Now comes Senator Max Baucus’s compromise plan.  There are plenty of eyebrow-raising elements to this compromise, and hopefully plenty of the Senator’s political compatriots will deposit the plan where it should go (Senator Rockefeller of West Virginia has made his position crystal clear).  But one item of concern for nonprofits is Baucus’s willingness to drop the “controversial” element that nonprofit hospitals would have to commit to a 5% charity care requirement.  After all of the Senate Finance Committee hearings on nonprofit hospitals laying out so clearly how crummy many nonprofit hospitals are in terms of charity care, this is the result?  What’s the alternative?  Per Baucus and the “nonprofit” hospital industry, instead of charity care, it’s “community benefit” activities.  The nonprofit hospitals, lead by the Catholic Health Association, lobbied hard, claiming that a 5% charity care requirement would put some of its members out of business, deprive rural areas of hospitals, etc. etc. etc., you can imagine the litany.  As though there wouldn’t be provisions for the low-revenue/low-profit nonprofit hospitals!  Come on!  Please, look at the numbers, don’t get thrown by the hospital lobbyists pitching “community benefit”, look at what they deliver and don’t, look at their top salaries, look at their profits, and ask what the heck is going to happen to the millions of people—immigrants and others—who will not be covered by the inadequately “universal” health care reform our nation is likely to implement—if it implements any health care reform at all.  —Rick Cohen


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