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Hearing Over UPMC's Tax-Exempt Status Gets Heated

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A number of protesters confronted senior officials of UPMC Wednesday evening at a public hearing on UPMC's tax-exempt status.

A contentious hearing of the Allegheny County Council on whether UPMC is really a non-profit entitled to tax-exempt status featured more than 90 witnesses, most of them complaining about UPMC.

"Did our founders really intend for charity hospitals to own vast million dollar real estate empires that make its leaders millionaires, many times over? I declare they did not," said Rev. David Thornton, a protestor.

"Public charities must exist for the public good," added Jessie Ramey, another protestor. "For the sake of our children and public education, it's time UPMC to pay its fair share."

But after just four opposition witnesses had spoken, the senior executives of UPMC decided they had had enough and walked out to boos and jeers from the crowd.

Earlier, UPMC's top lawyer said the quid pro quo for tax-exempt status was free health care to many.

"In the case of our hospitals, that quid is $200 million in free or reduced cost care in exchange for the property tax exemption," said Tom McGough, UPMC's chief legal officer.

This was just the first of several hearings that County Council intends to hold on whether non-profits in the county are paying their fair share, but given the size of UPMC, this one was likely to be the most contentious.

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