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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Are not-for-profit hospitals doing enough to help the poor? That question was batted about yesterday by a Senate committee. The answer could lead to calls to strip some hospitals of their tax-exempt status. From the Health Desk at WGBH Helen Palmer reports.

HELEN PALMER: The Senate Finance Committee wants to make sure tax-exempt hospitals are delivering low-cost or free health care to the poor. Iowa Republican Charles Grassley chairs the committee.

CHARLES GRASSLEY: Nonprofit hospitals receive tax benefits totaling tens of billions of dollars each year, and I want to help improve the accounting of the community benefits.

The hospitals claim they provide millions of dollars worth of free care, as well as community benefits like vaccinations and cancer screenings. But Jim Unland, who edits the Journal of Health Care finance, is not impressed.

JIM UNLAND: Yes they do give charity care but so do the for-profits and a lot of people are wondering OK why are we giving these people exempt from taxation when the for-profits are doing a lot of the same things.

Senator Grassley says tax-exempt hospitals need to prove they're helping low income patients get free or the IRS could come knocking.

And he said, there should be no more country club memberships for executives of non-profit hospitals.

In Boston, I'm Helen Palmer for Marketplace.