Legislators, Health Care Professionals, Patient’s Families Say Specialized Care for New Jersey’s Sickest Children Hangs in Balance
TRENTON – At a news conference in the Statehouse today, Senator Jeff Van Drew was joined by health care professionals, representatives of the Medical Society of New Jersey, and patients’ families to urge Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey to enter into good-faith negotiations with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to allow thousands of the State’s sickest kids to continue to receive top-notch specialized pediatric health care.
“Many families in South Jersey have relied on Children’s Hospital through the years to provide the sort of specialized pediatric care for which they have built a world-wide reputation,” said Senator Van Drew, D-Cape May and Cumberland. “However, Horizon’s decision to end their relationship with CHOP means that such world-class care will be inaccessible for thousands who subscribe to the State’s largest health insurer after March 11 – the cut-off date under the existing contract. Horizon needs to come to the negotiating table in good faith and ensure that New Jersey families continue to have access to the health care resources of the world’s best pediatric hospital.”
“Many of these families have had long standing relationships with Children’s Hospital. It is inherently unfair to terminate their coverage. These patients deserve to be treated better,” said Assemblyman Nelson Albano, D-Cape May and Cumberland, who could not attend, but expressed his support.
Assemblyman Matt Milam, D-Cape May and Cumberland, who also could not attend, stated, “These families have built very special relationships with CHOP. They have a right to expect those relationships to continue.”
In September, Horizon announced to its subscribers that it would be terminating its contract with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, effective March 11, 2009. Since the announcement, the health insurer and the hospital have continued negotiations to keep CHOP in-network for Horizon subscribers, but Horizon executives have expressed concerns that services provided by Children’s Hospital were too costly, and unsustainable in today’s healthcare marketplace. Children’s Hospital administrators have countered that the insurer has demanded that the hospital slash health care costs well below what is considered acceptable for some of their competitors.
According to the lawmakers, approximately 45,000 patients from New Jersey use Children’s Hospital or one of its New Jersey-based affiliates every year. Of that, more than 30,000 are covered by Horizon, the State’s largest health insurance provider.
Horizon is the number one health insurance provider for the South Jersey region. According to the most recent health care statistics, 56%of Atlantic County, 34% of Cape May County, and 34% of Cumberland County patients are covered by Horizon.
“When we talk about the sort of care provided by Children’s Hospital, we’re talking about kids with very special health care needs which cannot be met anywhere else,” said Senator Van Drew. “Horizon is sitting on a $1.7 billion dollar reserve, but it seems they are more concerned with the bottom line and profit margins than they are with the continued health of New Jersey’s kids. It’s time for Horizon to negotiate with Children’s Hospital in good faith and work through whatever issues stand in the way of signing a new contract with the health care facility.”
In addition to Senator Van Drew, the following people also spoke at the news conference. Contact information is provided for follow-up calls from the media.
• Brian Allegretto, a parent whose child is a patient at CHOP – (609) 780-1244.
• Dr. Bruce Monaghan, an Orthopedic Surgeon from Gloucester County, and Dr. Scott Schaffer, an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist from Camden County – (609) 896-1766, ext. 203.
• Sue Barber, from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society – (856) 697-5093.