TRENTON, N.J., April 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Four associations representing the state's 114 hospitals have reached a consensus position on the state's proposed healthcare budget for 2010.
Among other principles, the groups urged the state to examine all avenues for additional federal matching funds and agreed on a minimum floor that all hospitals should receive this year for charity care funding.
The agreement was shared today with members of the state Legislature by the four hospital groups -- the New Jersey Hospital Association, the Council of Teaching Hospitals, the Hospital Alliance of New Jersey and The Catholic Healthcare Partnership of New Jersey. The consensus was reached through the work of NJHA's Joint Charity Care Task Force, which has met since last fall with hospital leaders, state legislators and members of the Corzine Administration to achieve a consensus approach to the state's perennial debate over charity care funding. That work was especially critical in the current environment, with state revenues sagging while hospitals struggle to provide critical services and jobs amid growing financial challenges.
As partners with the state, the Task Force wanted to do its part to help maximize New Jersey's federal funding to stave off any hospital cuts. It has identified existing state dollars (currently paid by hospitals to support federally qualified health centers) that could be used to garner up to $20 million in additional federal matching funds that could be used to support hospitals -- all while maintaining current funding levels for the FQHCs.
"New Jersey is a richly diverse state, and so are its hospitals. Reaching a consensus position is no small undertaking," said NJHA President and CEO Betsy Ryan. "The fact that the industry is in agreement shows the critical condition our hospitals are in and the essential need for state funding that will allow them to remain open to care for the people of New Jersey."
Gov. Corzine's proposed budget for 2010 calls for charity care funding to be held at last year's level of $605 million. Hospitals will provide about $1.3 billion in charity care services to the state's 1.4 million uninsured residents this year.
Other healthcare programs would sustain moderate cuts in the 2010 budget, including graduate medical education, the Health Care Stabilization Fund and the Hospital Relief Subsidy Fund. Other healthcare programs also took budget hits, including adult day health services and nursing homes.
Task Force members agreed that the state's charity care reimbursement system is broken and requires a multi-year strategy to address its many problems. However, the consensus position applies to just the current budget year in recognition of the unprecedented economic challenges the state is facing in 2009.
"We stand together in support of all New Jersey hospitals," said Fr. Joe Kukura, president of the Catholic Healthcare Partnership. "Our hospitals share a caring mission and serve as the safety net for all New Jerseyans, including the 1.4 million without health insurance."
Richard Goldstein, MD, president and CEO of the Council of Teaching Hospitals, agreed. "In a very difficult year, this is a palatable compromise. But we must remain focused on the healthcare system of tomorrow. We need adequate support for teaching programs, for safety net providers and for all of the community hospitals that serve the people of our state."
Hospital leaders expressed their support for the Governor and legislators as they tackle an enormous fiscal challenge in the 2010 budget and asked for their help in obtaining new federal dollars.
"We are grateful that Gov. Corzine recognized the importance of New Jersey's hospitals by sparing charity care from cuts in his budget proposal," said Suzanne Ianni, president and CEO of the Hospital Alliance. "In this dire economy, we need to overturn every stone to ensure New Jersey is maximizing its federal reimbursement. We appeal to our state leaders to fully explore the golden opportunity identified by the Task Force. New Jersey just can't afford to leave 'free' healthcare dollars on the table in Washington."
The associations' consensus principles are:
|SOURCE New Jersey Hospital Association|
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