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Inquiry. 2009 Spring;46(1):72-91.

How do system-affiliated hospitals fare in providing community benefit?

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Department of Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029, USA.


The shift from local, community-based organizations to more complex delivery systems raises questions about the community orientation and accountability of health systems and their affiliates. This study examines whether hospitals affiliated with health care systems are more or less likely to engage in practices that reflect responsibility to their local communities by providing benefits in the form of uncompensated care, community engagement, Medicaid caseload, and accessible pricing policies. Using audited state data and other sources, we performed a longitudinal analysis on a pooled cross-sectional data file for the years 1989-2003 for all hospitals in Texas, California, and Florida. Results indicate that when compared to independent hospitals, system affiliation is associated with less community benefit. However, the level of community benefit varies depending on the type of community benefit examined and the structural characteristics of the system with which a hospital is affiliated. Results further suggest that the level and type of community benefit is conditioned by the market under which system-affiliated hospitals operate.

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