The tax-exempt status of more than 550 hospitals appears to be the latest nonprofit segment coming under scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS sent compliance check questionnaires, asked 80 detailed questions of the hospitals, asking for information about the hospital's operations, billing practices and the pay for top executives. Before the 1970s, hospitals were required to provide charity care to qualify for tax-exempt status, but in recent decades, hospitals have been able to maintain their status as long as they provide benefits to the community in other ways -- ranging from cholesterol screenings to emergency care, or medical research.

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