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Colorado hospitals provided more than $2 billion in community benefits in 2014

Benefits included uncompensated care, free or low-cost immunizations, charitable contributions and family support services, Association says.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Colorado hospitals and health systems provided more than $2 billion in community benefits in 2014, according to data recently released by the Colorado Hospital Association.

The Association represents more than 100 member hospitals and health systems across the state. In an affort to learn more about the roles hospitals play outside of standard patient care, the Association conducted the Community Benefits Survey, collecting data from fiscal year 2014 for 56 Colorado hospitals. The survey measured things such as reimbursed costs, uncompensated and other free or discounted programs that played important roles in community health, said the Colorado Hospital Association.

The survey found that Colorado hospitals sustained $1.8 billion in unpaid patient care costs, where the patient either could not pay or chose not to. Additionally, they provided more than $254 million voluntary benefits like health screenings, education, free clinics and other discounted services, and more than $73 million in charitable donations, survey data showed.

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[Also: Minnesota nonprofit hospitals dole out $4.3 billion in community benefits in 2014]

The Association says in order for a program or service to be officially considered a community benefit, it must meet at least one of the following criteria: improves access, enhances health, advanced medical or health knowledge or relieves or reduces the burden of government. 

"The role that Colorado hospitals and health systems play in their communities extends well beyond the walls of the traditional health care setting," said Steven J. Summer, CHA president and CEO. "Our statewide survey quantifies the voluntary activities hospitals are providing to address the unique health care conditions and needs of Coloradans. However, the peace of mind of knowing your hospital is there for you 24/7, 365 days a year in good health and in bad times is immeasurable."

This is just the second year that the Colorado Hospital Association has completed a community benefits survey of its members, and participation numbers are about the same for both years, about half their membership (55-60 members out of 101). The $2 billion reported this year is on par with the results from last year, when the survey was new endeavor.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn