Karcher – State Needs To Step Up Oversight Of New Jersey Charity Care

FREEHOLD – State Senator Ellen Karcher, Vice Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, said today that massive waste and fraud in our State’s charity care subsidy for hospitals providing health care access to the uninsured need to be addressed, and announced that she will be introducing legislation when the Senate reconvenes in May to provide necessary oversight and require greater accountability.

“Charity care is an integral part of our State’s health care safety net for the uninsured, and we cannot allow those dollars to go to waste,” said Senator Karcher, D-Marlboro. “After reading the SCI (State Commission of Investigation) report on the problems within our charity care system, I was shocked at the lack of oversight and review New Jersey provides for this multi-million dollar investment of public dollars. We need to ensure the integrity of our charity care program, and protect public funds from massive levels of institutional waste and abuse.”

Senator Karcher referred to the SCI report on charity care, released last week, which outlined various wasteful practices within the charity care system, including a lack of State or hospital oversight on charity care claims, illegitimate and fraudulent claims being paid through charity care, and the lack of follow-up on fraud investigations and third-party insurance reimbursement. Senator Karcher added that designating a watchdog in State government to oversee the application of charity care dollars would go a long way towards protecting the integrity of the system and directing charity care dollars to where they can do the most good.

“Charity care is hemorrhaging tens of millions of dollars each year due to waste, fraud and abuse,” said Senator Karcher. “At the same time, we have a limited amount of money to spend to provide health care access to the uninsured. We need to be providing some level of oversight and regulation, to guarantee that our limited resources will go towards meeting our obligation to the State’s uninsured population.”

Senator Karcher noted that many times, political calculations carry more weight in the appropriation of charity care dollars than they should.

“Right now, our charity care setup is one of the least efficient, least accountable programs in State government,” said Senator Karcher. “It’s administered poorly, with State charity care subsidies appropriated on limited, sometimes questionable merit. Moving forward, I would hope that we can reform the charity care system, not only to remove wasteful pitfalls, but establish objective funding guidelines which meet the real needs of the uninsured.”

Senator Karcher added that a State-designated watchdog could identify efficiencies in the charity care system, above and beyond eliminating waste identified in the SCI report. She said that State government needs to “operate at maximum efficiency, to restore the public’s trust and prove that we are being responsible stewards of public funds.

“Federal and state government must work together with hospitals to maximize scarce healthcare funding,” said Senator Karcher. “Even after we eliminate a lot of the waste plaguing the charity care system, we need to do more to provide for the efficient delivery of health care services, drawing upon cost savings realized through private pharmaceutical assistance programs, multi-hospital purchasing agreements, and other efficiencies proposed for other sectors of government. Cutting hospital costs needs to be a top priority after we have reigned in waste in charity care, to put downward pressure on health costs, not just for the uninsured, but all of New Jersey’s residents.”

Senate Committees are scheduled to meet on May 10. Senator Karcher noted that she will work to have her bills ready for introduction on that date.

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