Skip to Main Content
Don't have an account? Create Account
Don't have an account? Create Account

What is an Essential Hospital?

Providers of Choice for All People, All Communities

Essential hospitals share a mission to care for all people, regardless of their financial means and insurance status. Three-quarters of essential hospitals’ patients are uninsured or have Medicaid or Medicare coverage. Marginalized and underrepresented populations and communities with systemic and structural barriers to care rely on essential hospitals for health and wellness.

Along with their safety net mission, essential hospitals provide specialized, lifesaving services, such as level I trauma and neonatal intensive care; train many physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals; coordinate care across large ambulatory networks; meet public health and crisis response needs; and advance health equity.

Download the flyer to the right for a summary of how essential hospitals build a healthy country for all. Also, take a deep dive into data about our hospitals and the people and communities they serve with our annual member characteristics report, Essential Data: Our Hospitals, Our Patients.




Why We Must Formally Recognize Essential Hospitals

To safeguard access to care, improve health equity, and protect communities in times of greatest need, Congress must statutorily designate essential hospitals for targeted support. Essential hospital face challenges unique to their mission. Our members represent about 5 percent of all U.S. hospitals but provide more than a quarter of the nation’s charity care. Essential hospitals, on average, provide seven times as much uncompensated care as other hospitals. due to their small share of commercially insured patients and historically underfunded mission.

We have ample precedent for formally designating classes of hospitals to stabilize and protect providers vital to the larger health care ecosystem. Examples include critical access hospitals and sole community hospitals. Today, essential hospitals lack similar and crucial protections.

Learn more about essential hospital designation »


New and Noteworthy

Health Affairs Podcast Explores Financial Strain on Essential Hospitals

In a new podcast series by a physician at association member NYC Health + Hospitals, Beth Feldpush, DrPH, the association's senior vice president of policy and advocacy, unpacks the complex patchwork of payments that keep essential hospitals afloat.

learn more »

Health Affairs Commentary Argues for Essential Hospital Designation

In a Health Affairs Forefront commentary, the association's current, immediate past, and incoming board chairs say essential hospitals’ indispensable role, unique characteristics, and financial fragility argue for recognizing them as a distinct class in public health and policymaking.

learn more »

Federal Action Network

The Federal Action Network (FAN) is a community that connects essential hospital advocates with other professionals interested in federal politics and policymaking. FAN offers advocates the opportunity to enhance their engagement with the legislative and regulatory issues that matter most to their hospitals.

learn more »

Our Role

Champion for Essential Hospitals and the People and Communities They Serve

For more than four decades, America’s Essential Hospitals has been the foremost advocate in Washington, D.C., for hospitals that care for people who face financial and social barriers to care. We support our members’ safety net mission with advocacy, education, research, and leadership development. Our accomplishments to further health care access and equity are many: from disproportionate share hospital funding to laws that reduce drug costs for low-income patients to the recent fight for COVID-19 relief. Since 1981, America’s Essential Hospitals has been there for its members and their communities.

Our History and Achievements

In 1981, five hospitals came together with one common mission: to create a unique voice for hospitals that provide safety net care. Four decades, three names, and 300 members later, America’s Essential Hospitals remains the nation’s foremost champion for hospitals with a mission to care for underrepresented people and create access to care in underserved communities.

This is our story »

Roots as Public Hospitals

Previous Next
Test Caption
Test Description goes like this