A few weeks ago, I published this piece about nonprofit hospital community benefit, which called into question Kaiser Permanente’s sponsorship of the Golden State Warriors. I wondered whether Kaiser might be counting this partnership (along with fancy commercials like this) as part of the community benefit spending they must do in order to receive huge tax breaks as a nonprofit hospital. This post garnered a considerable amount of attention and since then, a few exciting developments have occurred:

… but more importantly…

  • 2) Kaiser Permanente reached out to us to clarify that, in fact, they did not use community benefit dollars to pay for their sponsorship of the Warriors. They informed us that the funds came exclusively from their marketing budget.

This is great news, and a much-needed clarification! We are glad to know that Kaiser is not using community benefit investments to pay for those glamorous advertisements.

However, Kaiser’s response does little to address the central issue.

Presently, advocates and community members have no way to determine a hospital’s community benefit spending. For example, I scanned through Kaiser’s Form 990 (which all nonprofit organizations are required to complete and submit to the IRS), and found that Kaiser provided grants to the Warriors in 2007, 2008, and 2010. Details can be found in the images below:

Kaiser Permanente 2007 Form 990

Kaiser Warriors 2 - KP 2007 990 Schedule I

Kaiser Permanente 2008 Form 990

Kaiser Warriors 2 - KP 2008 990 Schedule I

Kaiser Permanente 2010 Form 990

Kaiser Warriors 2 - KP 2010 990 Schedule I

These grants provide very vague descriptions, such as “CB Program Support” (which may – or may not – be “Community Benefit Program Support”) in 2008. Furthermore, in 2007 and 2010, Kaiser allocated grants for its “Corporate HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living)” program. Kaiser’s HEAL Grants and Partnerships are geared towards creating healthier communities, which is great, but it is unclear how much is actually allocated towards community development, especially when these investments are coupled with “Promotions” and “Get Fit Timeout.”

We are grateful that Kaiser reached out to us regarding their sponsorship of the Warriors; but for other community groups and advocates interested in learning about the role of large, nonprofit hospital systems in the community, gaining that clarification may not come so easily. Moreover, our community benefit advocacy goes far beyond Kaiser Permanente.

We need systemic change that will provide greater transparency, accountability, and community engagement in the community benefit process for nonprofit hospitals across the state. Several recently published studies have echoed these proposals, also calling for greater improvements in information transparency. As we continue to engage with these hospitals, we sincerely hope that we can partner with Kaiser and other nonprofit hospital systems to improve the health of underserved communities throughout California. Our collective missions – to ensure that everyone has access to good health regardless of race or income – align identically, so we hope we can work together to finally break through and unlock the tremendous potential that community benefit represents. Low-income communities and communities of color depend heavily on hospitals like Kaiser to improve health and save lives; we seek to maximize the impact these hospitals can have.

We truly appreciated the discussion we had with Kaiser, which clarified their investments with the Warriors. However, this is still only one step. All of us at Greenlining are ready to work with the hospitals to achieve true health equity across the state. We hope that they are ready to work with us too.