Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Healthcare Fundraisers Happy with Stimulus Bill

In a report released today, the NonProfit Times states that healthcare fundraisers are grateful for the final version of the federal government's stimulus package (Health Fundraisers Get Big Stimulus Win, The NonProfit Times, February 18, 2009).  The NPT report states in part:

Healthcare fundraisers will be grateful for changes in the federal government’s stimulus package. The House version of the bill initially threatened grateful patient programs by denying access to names and addresses but was eliminated from the final version approved by Congress.

The final version of the bill (H.R. 1), signed into law by President Barack Obama, will strengthen opt-out requirements for written communications to patients and their families, according to the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP).

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) nonprofit hospitals and their foundations are allowed to seek donations from individuals who have been patients in their hospitals. Section 4406(b) of the stimulus act would have effectively denied the development offices at nonprofit hospitals and healthcare providers access to names and addresses of patients in their own institutions, according to the Falls Church, Va.-based coalition. AHP’s position indicated there was no record of basis to justify the change and pushed for it to be eliminated from the House version of the bill.

In a fact sheet distributed to lawmakers, AHP President and Chief Executive Officer William C. McGinly warned that if the [House's] language had passed, fewer philanthropic dollars would go to nonprofit hospitals, straining operating budgets and limiting financial resources.

“For philanthropy to continue to fulfill its role in the American health care system, this is not the time to drastically change standards for fundraising,” AHP said in a position statement. The organization, with has more than 4,900 members, estimates that 61 percent of the $8.35 billion in donations to nonprofit hospitals and healthcare systems in 2007 came from individuals.

The Conference Committee included the language in a new section titled “Opportunity to Opt Out of Fundraising.” In a separate section of the legislation, the committee also included language that increases penalties for HIPAA violators.


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