TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement regarding today’s budget panel hearing on the State Department of Health and Senior Services, in which the need to overhaul New Jersey’s charity care subsidy for hospitals serving the uninsured was discussed:
“Charity care is a necessary part of our State’s safety net to provide health care access to the uninsured. However, relying too heavily on charity care, without proper oversight of the system, is a backwards way to meet our obligation to uninsured New Jerseyans.
“Last week’s SCI (State Commission of Investigation) report on the charity care system, and today’s Budget Committee hearing, reveal a charity care program which is in need of serious overhaul. State subsidies of charity care services rendered in our local hospitals are often inadequate to address the cost of care, and lack of oversight and subjective funding often translate to wasted potential.
“If we’re going to maximize our public health care investment, we need to shift to a formula-driven charity care program, in which dollars flow to hospitals serving the greatest need. We should also look into giving the recently-enacted Medicaid Inspector General greater authority to review the charity care program, and provide needed oversight and guidance to hospitals.
“Ultimately, charity care cannot be our only answer to dealing with the problem of the uninsured in the Garden State. Unless we do more to make health care accessible to all of our State’s residents, we’re going to come back every year and talk about the inadequacies of charity care in meeting the needs of the uninsured.
“We need to expand the health care options for uninsured New Jerseyans – not just at the emergency room door, but across the board – and we need to increase public awareness of those options, or we’re never going to realize the promise of health care access to all.”