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To the editor:

I am writing in response to a recent letter from John Stewart in which he takes me to task for my vote allowing a tax exemption to IHC.The question of whether certain types of organizations are eligible for tax exemptions has been a vexing one for several years, as commissioners have had to grapple with each issue somewhat subjectively.

Now, after much work and effort both locally and at the state level, a set of standards is in place by which we can measure whether the charitable service given by an organization meets the level required for the organization to be considered tax exempt.

In our review, we found that IHC (at least in Salt Lake County) did meet those standards, as did a number of other hospitals. Others, however, did not. It should go without saying that we judge all applicants by the same standards.

In addition to the value of having standards in place, another improvement in the process by which we assess these issues is that we require hospitals and similar institutions seeking exemption for charitable services to have in place an organized and regularly updated plan for charity health care.

At a time when there is increased concern, both nationally and locally, about the availability and accessibility of health care for all citizens, it is to the benefit of our community to have local hospitals increasing the amount of service they donate back in the form of charitable care. It is upon this basis that hospitals either meet or fail to meet the standards required for tax exemption.

It has been the consistent practice of the Salt Lake County Commission for several years to make these decisions as carefully as possible - a task which we can do much more accurately now that there are state standards to follow.

D. Michael Stewart

Salt Lake County Commission