Topless car washes trigger senate investigation of community benefit reporting

The Senate Finance Committee will continue its investigation into abuses in community benefit reporting after a hospital in California accounted for $347 in topless car washes. The 2008 Community Benefit Report for SunSpot Hospital in Fresno, CA lists the benefit under its “Self-help program” category, along with its smoking cessation classes and anger management programs.

In a tweet this weekend, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the top-ranking Republican on the committee, commented: “Hosps having topless car wshs I get, but $347? That seems like a stretch #welovechuck.”

In May, the committee held hearings to explore inconsistencies in community benefit reporting related to bad debt and reimbursement gaps. Sources on the committee revealed that other issues have emerged since then, including:

  • a health system in Massachusetts that listed $1,700 in community benefit related to neck rubs given randomly on the street.
  • two hospitals, one in Duluth and another in Dallas, that both included the value of “wave you on through the intersection” gestures given by staff members.
  • a physician-owned hospital in Utah counting $5,246 in community benefit for handing out free “National Hospital Week” tube socks at the Box Elder County Fair.
  • more than a dozen hospitals across the country accounting for every time a staff member used the : ) emoticon in emails, assigning different values ranging from 1¢ to $7.99 per use.
  • in perhaps the most egregious abuse, a hospital in Denver that assigned $76,400 in community benefit for all the times their staff members told someone that they had toilet paper on their shoe.

The hospitals in question could not be reached for a response by press time. A spokesperson for the American Hospital Association, Ted LeTed, said, “We believe strongly in supporting Senator Grassley and the committee in their efforts to clearly define community benefit reporting. There’s no reason hospitals can’t have topless car washes and meet the rule of law.”

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