Tag Archives: philanthropy

Foundations’ role in health reform is changing

Some philanthropic foundations and think tanks in California are frustrated that efforts to finance studies and projects have done little to improve medicine. So some are taking on a crusading role for health care reform in Sacramento, which is the state capitol, and Congress, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Breaking from more traditional practice, several have staffed offices in Sacramento and hired experienced former advisers to lawmakers in hopes of educating legislators. However, as the paper points out, this may be risky, since nonprofits are barred under Internal Revenue Service rules from lobbying or engaging in partisan politics.

Here’s one example: the California Endowment, a foundation based in Los Angeles with more than $3 billion in assets, has hired Daniel Zingale, a senior adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, to encourage policies the endowment favors. Such as? Ensuring that all children have health coverage and making doctors and hospitals focus more on disease prevention and the management of chronic ailments, the Times tells us.

“We really consider ourselves to be supporting positive change and not just making grants,” Dr. Robert Ross, the endowment’s president, tells the paper. As for the California HealthCare Foundation, its Sacramento office employs a former legislative health expert to ensure the foundation’s research topics are relevant to legislative agendas.

“Our view is the legislature is not facing a shortage of recommendations but a shortage of reliable information,” Dr. Mark Smith, president of the foundation, tells the Times.

Sally Pipes, president of the Pacific Research Institute, a conservative think tank based in San Francisco, says foundations risk undermining the credibility of their research by wading into policy deliberations. “I think that’s a bad move for them, because I think they will be really tarred as lobbyists,” Pipes tells the paper. “I don’t think lobbyists have the respect of economists or researchers.”

What do you think? How far should foundations go in pushing for legislative change?