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J Health Polit Policy Law. 1996 Winter;21(4):697-751.

Charity and community: the role of nonprofit ownership in a managed health care system.

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  • 1Yale University School of Medicine, USA.

Abstract

As American medicine has been transformed by the growth of managed care, so too have questions about the appropriate role of nonprofit ownership in the health care system. The standards for community benefit that are increasingly applied to nonprofit hospitals are, at best, only partially relevant to expectations for nonprofit managed care plans. Can we expect nonprofit ownership to substantially affect the behavior of an increasingly competitive managed care industry dealing with insured populations? Drawing from historical interpretations of tax exemption in health care and from the theoretical literature on the implications of ownership for organizational behavior, we identify five forms of community benefit that might be associated with nonprofit forms of managed care. Using data from a national survey of firms providing third-party utilization review services in 1993, we test for ownership-related differences in these five dimensions. Nonprofit utilization review firms generally provide more public goods, such as information dissemination, and are more "community oriented" than proprietary firms, but they are not distinguishable from their for-profit counterparts in addressing the implications of medical quality or the cost of the review process. However, a subgroup of nonprofit review organizations with medical origins are more likely to address quality issues than are either for-profit firms or other nonprofit agencies. Evidence on responses to information asymmetries is mixed but suggests that some ownership related differences exist. The term "charitable" is thus capable of a definition far broader than merely the relief of the poor. While it is true that in the past Congress and the federal courts have conditioned the hospital's charitable status on the level of free or below cost care that it provided for indigents, there is no authority for the conclusion that the determination of "charitable" status was always so limited. Such an inflexible construction fails to recognize the changing economic, social and technological precepts and values of contemporary society. -Circuit Court of Appeals, District of Columbia, Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Organization v. Simon (1974).

PMID:
8892004
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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