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Rothbart study on charity care provision and nonprofit hospital performance published in JPART

Jul 5, 2021

Holding Hospitals Accountable? Evidence on the Effectiveness of Minimum Charity Care Provision Laws

Michah W. Rothbart & Nara Yoon

Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, July 2021

Michah Rothbart

Michah W. Rothbart

Institutional form is believed to influence organizational behavior and performance in producing collective goods such as healthcare services. Recent efforts in the United States seek to increase healthcare services provided by hospitals, but it is unclear whether and how these organizations respond to the policy changes. In this study, the authors examine the extent to which nonprofit hospitals change their provision of charity care in response to a regulatory policy specifying a target benchmark aimed at expanding charitable obligations.

Specifically, the authors focus on the minimum charity care provision (MCCP) requirements in Illinois. Importantly, unlike previous research, they differentiate between hospitals facing minimum charity care spending requirements (nonprofits) and those not (for-profit and public). They use panel data from Illinois’ Annual Hospital Questionnaire and county data from the American Community Survey, employing a differences-in-differences model. They find no evidence that nonprofit hospitals increase charity care in response to the MCCP requirements on average. Instead, the authors find that there is heterogeneity in responses; hospitals providing low levels of charity care prior to the policy increase charity care, while hospitals providing high levels of charity care prior to the policy do not respond or, if anything, decrease charity care.

Thus, while regulations that set low-target benchmarks provide insufficient incentives for nonprofit hospitals to increase charity care on average, explicit policy mandates that reduce directive goal ambiguity may still narrow gaps in performance.