Pa. Rep. Lee slams hospital giant UPMC over charitable donations | Thursday Morning Coffee

‘We already knew UPMC was ripping us off,’ Lee, D-12th District, said

By: - April 13, 2023 7:23 am

U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-12th District, speaks during a news conference as state Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny (R) looks on (Office of U.S. Rep. Summer Lee).

Already under scrutiny for its nonprofit status, western Pennsylvania healthcare giant UPMC faced fresh criticism on Wednesday after one of its facilities finished at the top of a national rankings list for all the wrong reasons.

UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, was rated the least charitable nonprofit hospital in the nation, according to the Lown Institute, a nonprofit think-tank, founded by a physician, that advocates for socially responsible hospitals.

The institute’s Hospital Index, which ranked the “fair share” spending of more than 1,700 nonprofit hospitals nationwide, found that the UPMC facility received $246 million more in tax breaks than it spent on charity care and community investment in 2020.

The think-tank said it calculated the deficit by comparing each institution’s spending on financial assistance and community investment to the estimated value of its tax exemption. The data was based on each institution’s IRS Form 990 for the 2020 fiscal year.

UPMC’s deficit could have been used to clear the medical debts of 167,060 people, or helped cover the losses of 248 rural hospitals, many of whom are struggling to keep their doors openthe analysis showed.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-12th District, whose western Pennsylvania district spans Pittsburgh, said UPMC, a major regional employer and influential political player, needs to shoulder its fair share.

“The people of [western Pennsylvania] work hard for their paychecks. They pay their fair share in taxes–and greedy hospital monopolies like UPMC should too,” Lee said. “We already knew UPMC was ripping us off, exploiting our hospital workers to the point of a staffing crisis that puts our loved ones’ lives at risk, and leaving our most marginalized communities behind without access to care.”

UPMC could not immediately be reached for comment for this story.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey speaks during a live-streamed 6/27/22 press conference
Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey speaks during a live-streamed press conference on Monday, 6/27/22 (Pittsburgh City Paper screen capture).

Last month, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey announced the city was challenging the tax-exempt status of 26 properties, after a review by city officials concluded that they might not qualify for it.

The properties, which include houses, office space, parking lots, and vacant lots could bring in an estimated $3.5 million in revenue, city Solicitor Krysia Kubiak said at the time.

Their owners include UPMCCarnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Allegheny General Hospital, among others, the Capital-Star previously reported.

“I made a promise to the people when I ran, that in this city we would do the necessary work to ensure that all of our non-profits meet the constitutional standards,” Gainey said during a news conference last month. “That is our job as elected officials: we’re here to protect the taxpayers, and make sure everybody pays their fair share.”

In January, Lee and state Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, called on UPMC to step up its protections for its workers after a report revealed the healthcare titan had expanded at a breakneck pace that has left its facilities understaffed, and given it “monopoly power” that drives wages lower for workers across the western Pennsylvania market.

At the time, UPMC spokesperson Gloria Kreps told the Capital-Star in an email that it was “still reviewing the report” and declined to comment on its content.

Kreps added that “[a]t first glance, this report uses many of the same basic data and erroneous statistical analysis that have been reported in the past and debunked.”

Millions of people are expected to lose their Medicaid eligibility in the coming months as states return the programs to pre-COVID status. The loss of that revenue is expected to hurt struggling rural hospitals. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

UPMC was not the only Pennsylvania hospital included on the list.

The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania received an estimated $151 million more in tax breaks than it spent on charity care and community investment in 2020, according to the analysis. Penn also reported $304 million in excess revenue that year, including $49 million in COVID-19 relief funds.

The UPMC facility, by comparison, reported $44 million in excess income and $56 million in COVID-19 relief funds, the analysis showed.

“… The fact that we now know that UPMC is cheating our community out of $246 million on the backs of taxpayers, enough to erase medical debt for 167,000 Pennsylvanians – is shameful beyond reprieve,” Lee said. “Instead of promoting the health of our families, they only care about promoting their profitability. It’s time for accountability.”


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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.