Hospital CEOs Meet with Governor on Budget Cuts

Warn of Looming Closures, Layoffs and Loss of Healthcare Services

PRINCETON, N.J., April 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Closed hospitals. Lost jobs. Eliminated services. Longer drives and longer waits for care. Those are among the many impacts New Jersey residents should prepare for if the state's $300 million in proposed healthcare cuts are approved.

That was the message today as nearly 100 healthcare leaders from across the state met with Gov. Jon Corzine at the New Jersey Hospital Association in Princeton to voice their strong opposition to the Governor's budget proposal. State Health Commissioner Heather Howard accompanied the Governor.

Corzine's proposed healthcare cuts include $143 million in charity care dollars - a 20 percent cut from the current funding of $716 million. The cut would widen the gap between the state's payments to hospitals for caring for the uninsured and the $1.3 billion in charity care services provided by those hospitals this year.

NJHA President-designee Betsy Ryan said the state's ongoing lack of support of the charity care program will doom many N.J. hospitals.

"With these added cuts, it will become downright impossible for many facilities to bear the burden of the state's charity care requirement, and some of them will close," said Ryan. "Each one will take an average of 1,700 jobs along with it. And whole communities across our state will lose the services of their local hospitals."

Ryan noted that New Jersey already has lost 22 acute care hospitals since 1992 - a 30 percent consolidation. Six of those closures have come in just the last 18 months, with two more closures announced this year. Nearly half of the state's remaining hospitals are losing money, victims of a long history of underpayments from the state's charity care and Medicaid programs.

The Garden State is rapidly approaching an access-to-care crisis, with no state planning to ensure that all of the state's residents can reach a hospital when they need one, said Ryan.

NJHA Board Chairman Rich Miller, president and CEO of Virtua Health in Voorhees, was among the many hospital leaders who told the Governor how the cuts would hurt his hospitals and their patients. Virtua will lose roughly $1 million in charity care funds - among the 26 hospitals that will receive zero dollars in reimbursement from the state, despite providing a total of $118 million in charity care services. Miller noted that all N.J. hospitals lose money on each charity care patient they serve. The new cuts will cripple all facilities, whether they serve large or small numbers of charity care patients, he said.

"We've modeled the impact, and Governor, those numbers scare us," said Miller. "We look at seven-digit cuts and we try to figure out how many of our employees will have to be let go and what services will have to be axed. For others of us, we start computing different numbers - like how many days before our payroll runs out or our cash on hand is depleted."

Ryan presented the governor with nearly 4,000 letters from hospital workers and other concerned citizens who have visited the NJHA Web site, www.savenjhospitals.com, to share their concerns. Hospital supporters also plan a "Care Today, Gone Tomorrow" rally at the State House rally May 12 to further underscore what's at stake in the Governor's healthcare cuts.

"I would have loved for each of us here today to have been able to bring along one of our frontline caregivers or one of our charity care patients," said Ryan. "Because ultimately this discussion is about them - whether they'll still have jobs or whether they'll still have a local hospital to serve them."

SOURCE New Jersey Hospital Association

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