NJ charity care drops slightly in 2012

Hospitals in New Jersey spent just under $1 billion for charity care last year, a modest increase from 2011 but still well short of the total spent in 2010, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

Altogether, the Garden State's 72 hospitals spent a total of $998 million on charity care indigent patients lacking health insurance, according to the report by the Office of Healthcare Financing. In return, they received $675 million back in reimbursements from state and federal programs.

Hospitals in impoverished urban areas, such as Camden and Newark, spent an average of $23.3 million, more than double the average $9.9 million spent on suburban hospitals.

St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson spent the most among New Jersey hospitals,a total of $82.9 million last year, the Nonprofit Quarterly reported.

The total spent on charity was $2.5 million more than what was spent in 2011, according to the report. In 2010, hospitals spent $1.03 billion on charity care. The facilities must extend total or partial coverage of hospital bills to all patients earning 301 percent of the federal poverty level or below.

The report did not break out percentages of overall revenue spent on charity care. In Oklahoma, it is about 3 percent of total revenue, according to Oklahoma Watch. In Oregon, charity care is about 4.5 percent of total revenue, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

Suzanne Ianni, chief executive officer of the Hospital Alliance of New Jersey, expects to see the amounts expended on charity care decrease as more people enroll in Medicaid and commercial insurance as part of the Affordable Care Act, according to the Star-Ledger.

"Hospitals are not only investing in staff to help patients enroll in Medicaid but also in 'feet on the street' to help low income patients better manage their chronic diseases like diabetes or asthma where unmanaged patients frequently rely on the ER. That type of management could lead to a decrease in a hospital's documented charity care," Ianni told the Star-Ledger.

To learn more:
- read the Star-Ledger article
- check out the Nonprofit Quarterly report
- read the Oklahoma Watch article
- here's the charity care report (.pdf)

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