The Association of Health Care Journalists today unveiled hospitalfinances.org, a website that offers free, searchable financial information on nonprofit hospitals across the United States.
The aim is to make nonprofit hospital finances easier to access, search and analyze. This effort follows years of training by AHCJ to encourage journalists and the public to use nonprofit hospital filings and learn more about hospitals.
“Having the ability to easily review key financial information about your local hospital is important for the public and for journalists,” said AHCJ Special Projects Director Jeff Porter, who led a team to build the site. “We believe journalists can use the data as a tool to build better public understanding of how health care and local economies intersect.”
The site includes details of Form 990 filings, made by nonprofit hospitals and systems to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. A Form 990 is a tax return for tax-exempt organizations. In return for being untaxed, the nonprofit must provide the public with the 990, which summarizes the group’s finances, pay and governance practices. Hospitals and systems are also required to include details on how their activities benefit the public.
The site has been configured to be easily searchable by hospital name – even if the organization that files the 990 has a different name – city, ZIP code and state. The state search can cross borders if an organization owning multiple hospitals files from one state but the hospital is located in another state. The user can also search by individual names of hospital officials or key employees. The website – including a list of resources – is open to anyone, but only AHCJ members have access to bonus materials to help them use this information for their stories.
The hospitalfinances.org search results focus on key financial elements most often reviewed by health care journalists, including basic finances, compensation of top executives, community benefits and other details. The data come from electronic filings that the hospitals send to the IRS; the site is updated monthly. While the site does not include a complete copy of the 990, it does offer advice and links to acquire a copy of the form. The site offers references and resources for details about forms and schedules. It does not include for-profit or government-owned hospitals.
Funding for this project was provided by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust as part of a multi-year grant to boost training and resources for health care reporters, editors and producers.
AHCJ is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. With about 1,500 members, its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. The association and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism are based at the Missouri School of Journalism.