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NJHA: State Faces Access-to-Care Crisis
Date:2/26/2008

$108M Charity Care Cut Will Padlock More Hospitals

PRINCETON, N.J., Feb. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More hospitals will close, thousands of jobs could be lost, and access to healthcare will tighten for patients across New Jersey under the proposed state budget unveiled today by Gov. Jon Corzine, the New Jersey Hospital Association cautioned.

The austere spending plan proposes a $108 million cut in charity care, with funding of $608 million next year, compared with current funding of $716 million, according to the state's "Budget in Brief" document. That's a $692 million gap compared with the $1.3 billion in charity care services provided annually by the state's hospitals.

"We fully understand that this is an extremely difficult budget year, but in a $33 billion budget we question why healthcare for the poor and uninsured hasn't made it to the priority list," said NJHA President and CEO Gary Carter. "If we don't place greater value on essential healthcare services, then New Jersey better be prepared for more closed hospitals, more job losses and greater waits and longer drives to receive needed healthcare."

Betsy Ryan, NJHA's president-elect and chief operating officer, said the cuts will accelerate the already unprecedented pace of hospital closures and bankruptcies in the last 18 months. Since the beginning of last year, four acute care hospitals have closed, four more have announced closure plans, and five have filed for bankruptcy protection.

"New Jersey only has 78 community hospitals left, down from 112 hospitals just 20 years ago. I can assure you, many of those 78 hospitals will not survive this budget," said Ryan.

Ryan explained that years of government underfunding have put many of New Jersey's hospitals in shaky financial standing. NJHA considers at least 29 of those hospitals "vulnerable," with operating margins of 1.0 percent or less.

"I can't predict which hospitals will close, but
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SOURCE New Jersey Hospital Association
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