Senator questions non-profit hospital executive's pay - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Senator questions non-profit hospital executive's pay

September 13, 2006

Albany -- A U-S Senator has stinging criticism of Phoebe Putney and other not-for-profit hospitals. Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley launched an investigation to determine whether those hospitals deserve the billions of dollars in tax breaks they recieve. Now he's holding Senate hearings into the matter.

 Grassley says he's troubled by the pay and perks hospital executives get.  Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Committee on Finance, said his questioning of non-profit hospitals like Phoebe Putney found non-profit does not necessarily mean pro-poor patient. Grassley in his release said "Non-profit hospitals may provide less care to the poor than their for-profit counterparts. They may charge poor, uninsured patients more for the same service than they charge insured patients."

Grassley said his study of non profit hospitals found that there are no uniform standards to measure them by, and that they do not report their activities to the IRS. Grassley said in his review he was troubled that "executive after executive is having country club dues paid for by non-profit hospitals." Phoebe Putney reports spending more than 80-thousand dollars over a three year period for golf memberships for their senior executives.

Grassley says "Executive gold plated compensation packages and generous perks....call into question whether non profit hospitals deserve the billions in tax breaks they receive."

Dr. John Bagnato wrote the Phoebe Factoids anonomysly three years ago criticizing those same issues at Phoebe, and said Senator Grassley seems to agree with his criticism. Bagnato said "You have both the Albany Industry leaders who have shown through their data that there is good reason for concern. Then you have the Senate Finance. I mean how impartial a body can you get, looking at the hospital and saying hey guys there is a problem."

Phoebe C.E.O. Joel Wernick was out of town Wednesday, but said in a statement "we were not offended by Senator Grassley's inquiry, we embraced it.". Phoebe Associate Vice President Jackie Ryan said "Senator Grassley was kind enough to commend us for being the first in the country to post those answers on our website, and to lead that effort for transparency."

Ryan said Phoebe is very proud of their 22 million dollars a year in indigent care and 67 million more in community benefit they provide Southwest Georgia, and their tax exempt status save taxpayers in the long run.

But Bagnato and Senator Grassley both say non profits might need to do more to justify tax exempt status. Bagnato said "Does a person need to be told you shouldn't make 600, 700, 800 thousand dollars a year when you work for a not for profit." Senator Grassley says the IRS and Congress may need to take action to require more meaningful, uniform disclosure.

Jackie Ryan says Phoebe meets guidelines set by the Catholic Health Association by providing between 9 and 12 percent of gross revenue in indigent care and community benefit. She says the I-R-S threshold is three percent.

feedback: news@walb.com?=grassleyrelease

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