TRENTON – Senator Loretta Weinberg has focused on recent comments from the head of Bayonne Medical Center regarding the for-profit hospital’s donation to Reform Jersey Now, saying his inability to list any health care-related policy initiative pushed by the group puts the hospital’s contribution, and the group’s motives, in an ever harsher light.
In a story posted last week on the website PolitickerNJ, Bayonne CEO Daniel Kane said the hospital’s $25,000 contribution was for “public policy that will enhance the ability of hospitals,” but could not name what that policy was. In addition, there is no evidence Reform Jersey Now ever mentioned health care in any of its materials.
“Reform Jersey Now was created solely for the purpose of achieving the Governor’s political aims and wouldn’t know a health care issue if it had tripped over it,” said Weinberg (D-Bergen). “If there was any real health care platform in Reform Jersey Now’s narrow political agenda, I can’t find it. And that makes Bayonne stand out even more.”
Bayonne Medical Center has long frustrated health care advocates for its business model, which eschews affiliation with any insurance providers, leaving patients – all of whom are therefore out-of-network – to pay inflated costs for care. The hospital also has been seeking administration approval for its planned purchase of Hoboken University Medical Center.
Bayonne was the only medical center to donate to Reform Jersey Now, and made a maximum $25,000 contribution.
Over the summer and fall, Reform Jersey Now paid for multiple mailers attacking Democratic lawmakers in several legislative districts. Weinberg noted that not one of those mailers ever mentioned health care reform.
She said if Reform Jersey Now had actually advocated for pro-hospital public policy, Bayonne’s Kane should join her in calling for the group to disclose its expenditures to prove it. Weinberg noted that she brought the issue of disclosing where Reform Jersey Now’s money went to the organization’s treasurer, Ronald Gravino, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week; Gravino agreed, but no timeline has been given.
Weinberg said the only logical explanation for Bayonne’s political gift was to curry favor with the administration in its opposition to legislation she is sponsoring (S-1468) that would require Bayonne and other for-profit hospitals to open their books for scrutiny. She noted that one of Bayonne’s lobbyists hosted a fundraiser for Reform Jersey Now – the “special guest” at the $25,000-per-head event was the Governor.
Weinberg had previously written to both the US Attorney and New Jersey Attorney General asking them to open investigations into whether Reform Jersey Now’s political operations were a subversion of federal and state campaign finance laws, and state pay-to-play laws.
“It seems Bayonne has invented a poor excuse to cover up their only motive: Gaining exclusive access to the Governor to preserve and expand the expensive status quo they have carved out for themselves” said Weinberg.