Charity Care threatens hospitals

In Sunday’s Star-Ledger there was another article on charity care and the the threat to hospitals. When are we going to focus on solving this problem? The solution involves ending homelessness and reforming health insurance. This band aid approach will not work and will only cost us more in the future.

Hospitals: Rise in aid for poor falls short
Providers say budget increase isn’t enough

Sunday, July 01, 2007
BY JOE DONOHUE AND SUSAN K. LIVIO, Star-Ledger Staff

More than four dozen New Jersey hospitals will get extra cash in the state budget that takes effect today to help them provide free care for patients without health insurance, a Star-Ledger review has found.

But while hospitals say the extra dollars will ease some of their fiscal pain, it is far from a long-term cure to a problem that helped put some on the brink of bankruptcy.

“None of the hospitals is deliriously pleased nor desperately disappointed,” said Michael Murphy, a hospital lobbyist. “That’s probably the test of a good political outcome.”

Charity care was the most contentious issue in the state budget Gov. Jon Corzine revealed in February. In the end, the governor and lawmakers devised a compromise that will modestly increase total state aid and seek to take politics out of the process by eliminating open-ended grants that prompted an annual free-for-all for money.

Across the state, 51 hospitals and hospital systems will get more charity care aid, according to the Star-Ledger review, which is based on information provided to the state Legislature. A total of 22 will get less aid, but none will lose more than 6.1 percent.

The bottom line: $716 million in charity care aid, $133 million more than Corzine’s original budget.

But hospitals say it is still $900 million short of what they actually spend to treat more than 300,000 uninsured patients each year.

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