News AG Healey Announces Updated Guidelines for Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in Community Benefits from Hospitals and HMOs

New Guidelines Emphasize Community Engagement, Collaborations Across Institutions, and Investments in Statewide Priorities Including Substance Use
  • Office of Attorney General Maura Healey

Media Contact for AG Healey Announces Updated Guidelines for Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in Community Benefits from Hospitals and HMOs

Emily Snyder

BostonAttorney General Maura Healey today published updated guidelines that will improve coordination of hundreds of millions of dollars in community health programs made by hospitals and health maintenance organizations (HMOs).

The guidelines, first promulgated in 1994, provide a framework for hospitals and HMOs to address unmet health and social needs in their community and to develop programs to reduce disparities and improve community health. The updated Community Benefits guidelines are the result of a yearlong revision led by AG Healey’s Advisory Task Force on Community Benefits, and establish a more collaborative and community-driven approach by hospitals and HMOs in Massachusetts.

“This process allowed us to think critically about how to spend hundreds of millions on critical community health needs, like addressing the opioid epidemic,” said AG Healey. “Our updated guidelines ensure that the community’s voice is central to deciding how to use these resources to improve health and reduce disparities. I am grateful to the members of the Advisory Task Force and the many other stakeholders who devoted their time and expertise to help strengthen our Community Benefits Program.”

The updated guidelines align with state and federal programs, and provide new assessment tools so that hospitals and HMOs can better evaluate how they engage their communities and solicit feedback from community members. In recognition of the central role of social determinants in shaping community health, these updated guidelines also provide hospitals and HMOs with direction on how to incorporate social factors like education and violence in assessing health needs.

The guidelines also facilitate coordination of resources across hospitals and HMOs to address shared priorities. Updated public reports on Community Benefits programs will include program information and overall spending on statewide health priorities, including combatting substance use disorder and addressing homelessness and housing instability. 

“The AG’s updated Community Benefits guidelines rightly embrace a collaborative approach to developing and learning from community health programs,” said Don Berwick, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. “Reports filed under the new guidelines will advance how those on the frontlines understand community health improvement and develop best practices for advancing community health.”

“Massachusetts’s continued leadership on Community Benefits provides valuable direction to hospitals as they plan for continued investment in their communities,” said Steve Walsh, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association. “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.”

“This new guidance from Attorney General Healey on statewide priorities for Community Benefits, including an important focus on social determinants of health – which we all now recognize are so critical to overall health – will help ensure that Massachusetts continues to be a national leader on health care,” said Audrey Shelto, President of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.

The AGO’s Community Benefits Program has a high participation rate, with 59 hospitals and all six HMOs in Massachusetts submitting reports in 2017. Hospitals and HMOs collectively reported between $749 million and $921 million in Community Benefits each year between 2010 and 2016.  These investments include free and discounted care provided to patients as well as community health programs addressing issues like violence prevention, substance use disorder, and access to healthy foods.       

The updates to the AGO Community Benefits Program were led by Assistant Attorney General Sandra Wolitzky, Project Manager Elana Brochin, and Special Assistant Attorney General Karen Tseng of AG Healey’s Health Care and Fair Competition Bureau.

Media Contact for AG Healey Announces Updated Guidelines for Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in Community Benefits from Hospitals and HMOs

Office of Attorney General Maura Healey 

Attorney General Maura Healey is the chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.