How a major teaching hospital tried to repair its reputation

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Fifteen years ago, Connecticut's Yale New Haven Hospital was criticized nationally for going to extreme lengths to get low-income patients to pay their bills, up to and including putting liens on their homes. It has since tried to improve its image by pouring more of its money into community programs—but for some local providers and politicians, it’s still not enough.

As POLITICO reports, the teaching hospital forgave patients’ debts, changed its billing practices, welcomed new leadership and forged new partnerships with other nonprofit groups. One of those partnerships was with Habitat for Humanity, to which Yale New Haven donated vacant lots near the hospital for new homes for low-income families.

But like other nonprofit hospitals, it’s actually very profitable entity—with nearly $460 million in revenues above expenses in 2016—which owns a lot of property for which it doesn’t pays taxes. It successfully fought a proposal from the state legislature to let towns and cities tax hospital property, but its financial standing could lead to the idea being revisited.

"Part of the struggle is that there is so much tax-exempt property in those cities," said Martin Looney, the Connecticut Senate president pro tempore and a Democrat who represents New Haven. "It was a very creative and a kind-of roundabout stratagem."

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