AG’s Office Releases Updated Community Benefits Guidelines

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey last Wednesday issued new community benefits guidelines for hospitals and HMOs.

Community benefits are programs that hospitals offer at no cost to communities to assist in, among other items, targeting obesity, nutrition education, and diabetes management; fighting substance use disorder; providing transportation to assist with accessing primary care and mental health services; hosting community-based support programs for domestic violence prevention and support, maternal and newborn services, and tobacco – among many other programs.

In 2016, Massachusetts hospitals provided $648 million in community benefits. That figure does not include the losses hospitals incurred in providing care to enrollees in government programs such as MassHealth, which reimburses well below the cost of care. In the news release announcing the guideline changes, AG Healey noted that hospitals and HMOs collectively reported between $749 million and $921 million in community benefits each year between 2010 and 2016.

“Massachusetts’s continued leadership on community benefits provides valuable direction to hospitals as they plan for continued investment in their communities,” said Steve Walsh, MHA president and CEO. “We appreciate the collaborative work by the Attorney General to ensure that the new guidelines align federal and state standards, as well as her work with providers and advocates to develop appropriate methods for community engagement.”

The task force that Healey assembled to craft the new guidelines has been meeting since April 2017. Among the participants on that task force were Michael Botticelli, the executive director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine at Boston Medical Center; Douglas Brown, the president of community hospitals and chief administrative officer for the UMass Memorial Health Care System; Joan Quinlan, vice president for community health at Massachusetts General Hospital; Frank Robinson, vice president, community relations & public health for Baystate Health; and Jody White, the CEO of Lowell General Hospital and Circle Health.