Meeting the health care needs of our communities is the cornerstone of Sutter Health’s not-for-profit mission. This includes directly serving people who can’t afford to pay for health care and supporting health-related programs and services that help those in financial need. Traditional charity care covers health care services provided to patients who can’t afford to pay and who meet certain other criteria.
Program for homeless patients replicated
In 2014, Sutter Health replicated in Alameda County a successful Sacramento respite program for homeless people. Over 10 years, we’ve partnered with other Sacramento-area health care providers, Sacramento County and community organizations to offer an interim care program for homeless patients discharged from participating hospitals. The program, to which we’ve contributed more than $500,000 since 2005, gives patients a clean, safe place to live temporarily while they heal, as well as help obtaining substance abuse treatment, medical care and permanent housing. In 2014, we gave $135,000 to LifeLong Medical Care for a similar program in Alameda County. Our contribution funded a transition care nurse and other resources to help clients find housing, primary care doctors and social services during their medical recovery. Throughout the year, 141 people in Sacramento and 55 in the East Bay benefited from the interim care programs.
Our 2014 financial highlights:
- Total vital medical care and supportive services to people in need and the broader community: $767 million
- Cost of services provided to patients who couldn’t afford to pay for the care they received (charity care): $91 million
Here’s a summary of Sutter Health’s estimated costs of providing services to people who are unable to pay, as well as to members of the broader community.
(Dollars in millions)
Services for the poor and underserved
Traditional charity care
Unpaid costs of public programs:
Other public programs
Other benefits for the poor and underserved
Total services for the poor and underserved
Benefits for the broader community
Education and research
Cash and in-kind donations
Other community benefits
Total benefits for the broader community
Total community benefit
Sutter Health and other health care systems nationwide subscribe to a common definition of community benefit. Community benefits are programs or activities that provide treatment or promote health and healing as a response to community needs. They are not provided primarily for marketing purposes.
In keeping with this description, community benefit:
- generates a low or negative financial return
- responds to the needs of special populations, such as those living in poverty and other disenfranchised people
- supplies services or programs that, if discontinued for a purely financial reason, would increase costs to government or another tax-exempt organization
- responds to public health needs
- involves education or research that improves overall community health
Services include any provided to people who can’t afford health care because their income is too low or because they have little or no medical insurance. Also included are the unpaid costs of public programs for Medi-Cal beneficiaries and others in need.
Costs are determined based on a relationship of costs to charges. Services for people who lack financial and medical resources include the cost of other services for poor populations and cash donations on behalf of those in need.
Benefits to the broader community include the costs of providing:
- health screenings, free clinics and other community services
- training for health professionals
- seminars, classes and other public health education
- medical research
Benefits for the broader community also include contributions Sutter Health makes to community agencies to fund charitable activities.