CHA News

New Documentary Film Takes Biased Look at Not-for-Profit Hospitals

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A new documentary film called Inhospitable — which takes a biased, unflattering look at the financial operations and obligations of not-for-profit hospitals — is generating attention on social media platforms and via in-person and virtual theatrical screenings across the country. 

According to promotional materials and the website, the film “… exposes American hospitals’ significant role in our broken health care system.” The film explores such issues as health care costs and hospital prices, hospital and health system consolidation, not-for-profit status, and contracting disputes between hospitals and insurers.  

While most of the film focuses primarily on a contractual dispute between a not-for-profit health system in Western Pennsylvania (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) and the largest not-for-profit health plan in the same region (Highmark), the documentary notes that these issues are national in scope and affect patients throughout the country. 

The film’s producers allege that hospitals are “a big business,” “powerful” and “are building monopolies.” Additionally, the film asserts that not-for-profit hospitals are charities funded by taxpayers — and as such, have an obligation to put the needs of patients ahead of financial considerations.  

The film’s director has explicitly stated her “inspiration” for the documentary was the 2017 book “An American Sickness — How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back,” by Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, editor-in-chief of Kaiser Health News.  

The American Hospital Association and the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania both declined requests to participate in the film. A consulting firm recommended by AHA (Charles River & Associates) did participate in an on-camera interview. AHA has provided a set of key messages for hospitals to use in response to inquiries about the film.