UPMC doesn't exactly smell like a nonprofit
It's all about aroma.
Few people were thinking fragrance this week as Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and state elected officials joined forces for a de facto declaration of war against medical behemoth UPMC. Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was among the exceptions.
“Doesn't even pass the smell test,” he declared.
Ravenstahl referred to the self-described $10 billion global health enterprise's funhouse mirror insistence that it is a public charity, a legitimate nonprofit entity. The mayor tossed a large rock toward that mirror by announcing the city is legally challenging UPMC's tax-exempt status; shattering it could net the city $20 million annually.
After recently and abruptly dropping his re-election bid, Ravenstahl appears to have inhaled near UPMC's Downtown headquarters and choked. Interesting how a scent he found floral enough during the six-plus years of his tenure is now fetid after he decided to ditch the mayor's office.
But judging from the army of politicos joining Ravenstahl in a battle whose outcome is uncertain, he is far from alone in believing the redolence of UPMC's nonprofit claim is rancid.
UPMC vigorously contends it indeed passes the smell test. It considers itself the monolithic corporate equivalent of lilac bath salts whose soothing scent leaves the region feeling refreshed and reinvigorated after each use.
But how can UPMC successfully convey that position in court? What follows are strategies it might consider exploring in attempting to prove that it meets the nonprofit criteria the state Supreme Court established last year:
• Advances a charitable purpose: The numbers don't lie. According to UPMC's 2011 tax forms, only slightly more than 98 percent of net patient revenue was used for purposes other than financially assisting patients and charity care.
• Donates or renders gratuitously a substantial portion of its services: UPMC graciously donated the $5 million tab to demolish its Braddock hospital in 2010, even over the objections of many people who preferred keeping the facility open to accepting the company's generosity.
• Benefits a substantial and indefinite class of persons who are legitimate subjects of charity: Were it not for UPMC's largesse, UPMC's executive chef, the pilot of the corporate jet and the accountants who do the taxes of the more than 20 UPMC executives who earn salaries exceeding $1 million might have far less lucrative jobs.
• Relieves the government of some of its burden: UPMC annually relieves the government of having to calculate the property taxes and payroll taxes it would owe were it a for-profit venture. What a time-consuming burden that would be.
• Operates entirely free from private profit motive: UPMC doesn't amass profits, although its mission of delivering first-class community health care occasionally results in a modest, after-expenses cash excess. It happened most recently last year, when UPMC's net income totaled $220 million.
It's kept in the petty cash drawer.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Shale oil, gas finds put Mon Valley on path to renaissance, leaders say
- Penguins forward Downie becoming a hit with teammates
- Ebola watch lists to shrink
- Legal titans prepared to tussle in Ferrante cyanide homicide trial
- Opposing defenses find success against Steelers by eschewing blitz
- Scottdale appoints borough solicitor
- Steelers looking for Spence to step up game at inside linebacker
- Customers rarely utilize right to cancel a contract
- Pittsburgh photo exhibit shines light on ‘Good’ work
- Freeport falls prey to Montour firepower
- Monessen police break up fight