To The Herald-Whig:
The Illinois Hospital Association, which represents 200 hospitals and health care systems throughout Illinois, and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, which represents thousands of small and large employers -- including hospitals -- throughout Illinois, are discouraged by the recent preliminary rulings by the Illinois Department of Revenue denying the property tax exemption applications of three not-for-profit hospitals.
If these rulings are upheld and applied to others, it will not just be a new tax burden for hospitals, but also will result in unnecessary escalation of health care costs in Illinois. Taxing health care costs means the cost of insurance will go up, so the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance will rise as well. Hospitals are also an important economic engine for Illinois, accounting for more than $75 billion a year and generating more than 425,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The Department of Revenue's misguided rulings will stall hospital construction, affect hiring and threaten the viability of many institutions struggling to survive. Hospitals are among the top three largest employers in nearly half of the state's counties and are actually creating jobs at the same time that Illinois is losing jobs in this difficult economy. In July, Illinois lost 24,900 jobs, more than any other state in the nation. Illinois cannot afford to tax some of the state's best employers.
Taxing not-for-profit hospitals is bad for patients, bad for the communities and bad for the Illinois economy. Not-for-profit hospitals are strong partners with the state and their communities. They are deserving of their tax-exemption status -- and our full support.
We urge the Department of Revenue to withdraw its preliminary rulings for the three hospitals and refrain from issuing any further hospital tax-exemption denials. It is imperative that hospitals and government officials have an opportunity to work out a reasonable and practical legislative solution to this issue that includes a clear unambiguous definition of eligibility.
Maryjane A. Wurth
President Illinois Hospital Association
President and CEO
Illinois Chamber of Commerce