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American Hospital Association
444 North Capitol Street N.W.
Washington D.C. 20001
STATEMENT OF THE AMERICAN HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION
August 15, 1983
The American Hospital Association, which represents over 6,300 hospitals and other health care institutions as well as more than 35,000 personal members, is pleased to have this opportunity to comment on S.1167 and S.1579. These bills would entitle volunteers who use their automobiles for charitable purposes to a tax deduction at the standard business-use rate or the reimbursement level that federal government employees receive for official use of their automobiles. The rate for business and government employees is currently 20 cents per mile, while the mileage deduction for volunteers is only 9 cents per mile.
We wish to express strong support for both S.1167 introduced by Senator Durenberger, and S.1579, introduced by Senator Armstrong. Hospitals rely heavily on the services of over 5 million individuals who donate their time and energies for important volunteer work. These bills would significantly benefit those individuals and the institutions they serve by allowing
volunteers, if they itemize their personal deductions, a reasonable deduction Such a change
for travel expenses incurred in aiding these institutions.
Importance of Volunteers
Throughout the history of the United States, charitable contributions, both in money and kind, have been vital to the health care system. Contributions have reflected and fostered a highly desirable participatory attitude by individuals toward the health needs of their communities. Direct contributions have enabled hospitals to: replace obsolete facilities and equipment; conduct research and educational activities; maintain and improve community health care through subsidization of the cost of providing care to indigent patients; and develop and finance innovative approaches to health care delivery.
In addition, direct philanthropic support reduces the financial burden on government. For example, it has become clear that diminishing charitable support for hospitals in some urban areas has decreased their ability to maintain important patient care services. The plight of these financially distressed hospitals is now a major concern of the hospital field and the Congress. Private charitable and governmental activities in the health care field--often addressing different but related public needs and problems--are complimentary expressions of support for better health for the people of the
nation. We believe the maintenance of this balance is important to the stability and improvement of the health care system.
In much the same way that philanthropic contributions complement other sources of health care financing, volunteer services complement the services provided by health care personnel. Volunteers perform services that humanize the hospital environment. They read to children and write letters for elderly patients. They also comfort patients and their families in emergency, recovery, and intensive care waiting rooms. Volunteer services are often a part of physical therapy and psychological support programs. In addition, these services have allowed hospitals to expand patient education activities related to nutrition, exercise, and natural childbirth. By escorting patients, bringing needed items to patients' rooms, and staffing gift shops, volunteers make hospital care more personal. As patient visitors, they frequently bring patients' problems or special needs to the attention of appropriate hospital personnel.
In the community, volunteers participate in health promotion and disease prevention efforts by distributing printed materials and videotapes that provide information on diseases and such risks as smoking or alcohol abuse. They also deliver hot meals to the homes of elderly and indigent citizens through the 'Meals on Wheels" program. Recently, volunteers have begun community outreach programs that include health screening and referral services. If volunteer activities were to decline, many worthwhile programs would be deprived of much needed support and might cease.
Another extremely helpful volunteer service that benefits both patients and the government by preventing possible costly errors is assistance for patients who must file third-party reimbursement forms. In programs providing such assistance, a volunteer usually meets with a patient during admission to explain reimbursement procedures and may assist in completing forms prior to discharge.
Burden on Volunteers
The American Automobile Association has estimated the total cost of driving a car to be over 23 cents per mile. Other estimates range as high as 50 cents per mile. However, the volunteer mileage deduction, which became law in 1958 at 7 cents per mile, currently remains at 9 cents contrasted with the deduction of 20 cents per mile for business and government use. In 1958, gasoline 29 cents per gallon and oil was 15 cents per quart. Today, gasoline costs have skyrocketed to over $1 per gallon and oil exceeds $1 per quart. The present low rate of reimbursement in no way approximates the cost of fuel and maintenance required to operate an automobile.
The increasing cost of operating an automobile is a growing burden for persons who devote their personal resources to the performance of volunteer activities. In the interest of both local and national efforts to address community needs through private initiative, it is entirely appropriate to continue encouragement of charitable work through federal tax policy. To do so requires that the mileage deduction available to charitable volunteers
equitably reflect the transportation expenses they incur through their commitment. Both S.1167 and S.1579 represent a signficant step toward this
The AHA appreciates the opportunity to express its support for these bills and we will be pleased to provide any additional information that the committee may request.