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Hospital Groups United in Opposition to Charity Care Cuts
Date:2/28/2008

PRINCETON, N.J., Feb. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Organizations representing the state's hospitals today expressed unified opposition to the deep state funding cuts proposed for hospital care for New Jersey's 1.3 million uninsured residents.

Gov. Jon Corzine's $33 billion state spending plan for 2009, released Tuesday, proposes a $108 million cut in charity care, with funding of $608 million compared with current funding of $716 million. That marks a 15 percent cut. However, an unspecified portion of that $608 million will be pulled from the overall charity care pool to establish a hospital stabilization fund, leaving even fewer charity care dollars to be divided among hospitals.

The proposed funding level represents a $692 million gap compared with the $1.3 billion in charity care services provided annually by the state's 78 acute care hospitals.

The cut comes at a time when New Jersey hospitals are struggling financially due to chronic government underfunding. In the past 18 months alone, four acute care hospitals have closed, four more have announced plans to close and five others have filed for bankruptcy protection. Of the hospitals that remain, nearly half are losing money.

"If the Governor's proposal is enacted, we'll see a rash of additional unplanned hospital closures," said Rich Miller, president and CEO of Virtua Health and chairman of the New Jersey Hospital Association Board of Trustees. "Our greatest fear may be at hand - the wrong hospitals, closing for the wrong reasons, creating an access-to-care crisis not only for charity care patients, but also for all Garden State residents."

While the Governor said one of his priorities in this austere budget is to protect the vulnerable, hospital leaders noted that the charity care program is designed to provide care to the working poor of New Jersey who can't afford health insurance. State law requires that hospitals provide that care.

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SOURCE New Jersey Hospital Association
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