Non-Profit Hospitals and Keeping a Straight Face

The Institute for Wisconsin’€™s Future (IWF) released a new report on Wisconsin non-profit hospitals and their billions of dollars worth of tax-exempt property. The report finds that those properties could be generating at least $117 million in property taxes yearly to help ease the property tax burden on individual taxpayers and small businesses. The report includes a list of all 124 tax-exempt hospitals and medical centers, located in 100 communities statewide. It includes tables with data on each non-profit hospital in the state, including potential local property tax payments.

Wisconsin’€™s property tax exemption for non-profit hospitals dates back to a time when they largely served the poor. But now, as the IWF report says, ‘€œthese former almshouses are massive, sometimes luxurious institutions.’€ In addition, most of the facilities that were once located nearest to the poor are closing while large palace-like structures are being erected in wealthier areas. Increasingly the larger non-profit hospitals are behaving more like their counterparts in the for-profit world. According to data that IWF obtained from the Wisconsin Hospital Association, these hospitals posted nearly $1 billion in income in 2006.

I don’€™t envy the lobbyist that has to argue a case for what has become a massive industry in Wisconsin. Non-profits with a combined revenue of $11.5 billion. A combined 2006 profit of $1 billion. Non-profits owning a combined $5.8 billion in real property. Erecting palaces in more affluent areas while closing down operations in the poorest areas of the state. With this kind of data, how can even the most seasoned lobbyist defend the status quo with a straight face?

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