Sunday, December 12, 2004

Union Charges Advocate Health Care Skimps on Capital Improvements in Minority Areas

In Chicago, the Sun-Times reported that the Service Employees Internation Union charged that Advocate Health Care, a not-for-profit hospital system, spends more on capital improvements on hospitals in predominantly white areas than it does on hospitals in areas with larger minority populations. The Union asserted that Advocate is not fulfilling its social mission, and thus questioned whether Advocate should keep its not-for-profit status. The state legislature may investigate. Advocate responded by saying its per-patient spending is higher in areas with larger minority populations.
Yet another case raising questions about whether a not-for-profit health care system is true to its mission....

1 comment:

Kevin C. Fleming said...

Hard to tell who is telling the whole story, but it does sound bad, if the numbers reported by the union are true. Simply not enough information to know: are the differences because of some capital building project, required changes elsewhere, or is spending being shifted to accomodate the wealthy?

But let's say this is true. While no one would disagree that a not-for-profit has a mission to serve the poor, the saying "No margin, no mission" comes to mind. Given government squeezing of Medicare reimbursement, the only way nonprofits can fund care for the poor is from excess funds generated by philanthropy or by selling similar services to the rich. The latter requires catering to the well-off, which means nicer buildings, etc.

I wonder if this will be something the union hadn't wished for. If spending becomes proportionate or greater in the low income hospitals, the source of spending on the poor may dry up. They must acknowledge that the money for operating the hospitals for the poor comes from somewhere, or it won't come at all.