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What Type of Health Care Organization is Right for my Aging Parents?

You and Your Aging Parents
What's the right type of organization for my aging parents?

In the fall of 2012, Hebrew SeniorLife gathered together geriatric thought-leaders, researchers and physicians for our inaugural "You and Your Aging Parents" program, an important discussion about the steps one should take to help aging parents as they make decisions regarding health and well-being. Overwhelmingly positive response indicates the need for this information and Hebrew SeniorLife continues to offer this program. Check our events listing for upcoming events. 

In addition, we published expert advice from the first program in an ebook, 
“You and Your Aging Parents,” which Hebrew SeniorLife is offering as a free downloadable pdf. The discussion also inspired our “You and Your Aging Parents” blog series, a series that includes this blog post and covers the various issues and concerns you may encounter as you and your parent/s continue on the journey of aging.

What is the difference between a for-profit and nonprofit health care organization?

Organizations providing senior care services can come in all shapes and sizes – there are for-profits and nonprofits, and for-profits can be privately held or publicly traded. Regardless of whether nonprofit or for-profit, providers can be made up of a single site, or part of a national chain, or everything in between.

Despite their differences, these organizations all share some important similarities:

  • If a provider is licensed by the state to provide certain kinds of services (e.g., skilled nursing service), it’s subject to a certain set of laws, regulations and general oversight mandated by the state in which it is licensed.
  • If a provider is certified by Medicare and/or a state Medicaid program, (meaning it’s able to accept Medicare/Medicaid as payment for certain services), it’s subject to certain state as well as federal laws, regulations and requirements, and also receives a certain rate of payment for each covered service. Medicare payments, for the most part, do not vary among providers, although there can be some variation based on geography.
  • Nonprofits and for-profits alike have officers and other senior managers that run their operations, but those individuals often have ultimate accountability to a Board, Trustees, investors and/or donors.

Particularly in health care, it’s difficult to generalize about whether a nonprofit vs. a for-profit is going to provide better services, or be more financially viable. Some of the largest, most successful health care systems in the Boston area are locally-focused nonprofits, while others belong to national for-profit chains. Understanding the structure, leadership and financial viability of a provider can help consumers assess the quality and reliability of services they are likely to receive before making a decision, particularly if long-term care services are needed.

Here are some ideas for checking on information that is publicly available about providers’ organizational structures and fiscal stability:

  • All nonprofits (including nonprofit health care providers) are required to file Form 990s annually, which are like informational tax returns. These filings provide helpful information about a provider’s mission, its management, donor contributions and budget allocations. Nonprofits typically make 990s available on their websites. You can also visit www.guidestar.org to review many providers’ 990s free of charge.
  • Many providers post information about senior management on their websites. If publicly traded, a provider may also have copies of financials filed with the SEC, and detailed information about Board composition and oversight.
  • Businesses (nonprofit and for-profit) filings are publicly available on many state corporations divisions’ websites – in Massachusetts, for example, you can look up a provider’s business filings at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/cor/coridx.htm. Filings will provide information including how long the company has been in business, who owns it, its officers and directors and whether it owes any state taxes (which can be indicative of fiscal trouble ahead).

To download your copy of our “You and Your Aging Parent” ebook, visit our website, www.agingredefined.org.

Rachel Lerner, Esq.'s picture

About the Blogger

General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer, Hebrew SeniorLife

Rachel Lerner is responsible for managing all legal and compliance affairs across Hebrew SeniorLife.  She oversees HSL’s Compliance Program and counsels the organization on a diverse array of legal issues that arise from HSL’s healthcare, housing, research and teaching operations.  Rachel has spent her entire career working with healthcare and senior living organizations.  After earning her law degree from New York University School of Law, she worked for a number of years as a healthcare transactional and regulatory attorney in a national law firm.  She then served as Associate General...

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