Hospitalfinances.org, a site AHCJ launched in 2018 to provide free, searchable financial information on nonprofit hospitals across the United States, is back online after a year-long hiatus.
“Hospitalfinances.org was designed to give the most useful parts of the IRS Form 990 to journalists with a few clicks,” said Karl Stark, a former AHCJ board president who worked with Jeff Porter, former director of education, to help build the site in 2018.
The site has been rebuilt for sustainability by the Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems (CARES) at the University of Missouri, where AHCJ is located. The CARES team will maintain the site, which will be hosted by the university.
The site went offline in 2021 because the previous data provider, Applied Nonprofit Research, stopped offering the service.
Hospitalfinances.org offers members a unique, curated walkthrough of Form 990, Stark said. Form 990 is a tax return for tax-exempt organizations that summarizes a hospital’s finances, pay and governance practices. Hospitals and systems are also required to include details on how their activities benefit the public.
After years of training members and the public to use nonprofit hospital filings and learn more about hospitals, AHCJ decided to build hospitalfinances.org. The website makes finances easier to access, search and analyze.
“We know 990 filings by nonprofits can be confusing, so we broke it down to give the key elements. Our search was based on a hospital facility’s name, which might or might not be the same name as the nonprofit filing the 990,” Porter said.
Why hospitalfinances.org is a valuable resource
Stark said search results can sometimes serve as a lead for health care stories.
“That site is meant to be the Greatest Hits of the 990: Do you need compensation of top executives for every nonprofit hospital in the state? Check. Do you need to know how much each pays in community benefit for its tax-free status? Bam. There it is, too,” Stark said.
Search results focus on key financial elements most often reviewed by health care journalists, including basic finances, compensation of top executives, community benefits and other details.
The data come from electronic filings that hospitals send to the IRS. The site is updated monthly but does not include a complete copy of the 990. It does offer advice and links to acquire a copy of the form. Hospitalfinances.org also offers references and resources for details about forms and schedules but does not include for-profit or government-owned hospitals.
Hospitalfinances.org was previously funded by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and is now funded directly by AHCJ.