While Washington fiercely debates the future of health care in America, we are fortunate in New Jersey to have leaders in both parties who stand up to support our most important health care organizations — our safety net hospitals.
Over the last 7 years, Gov. Chris Christie has led the charge to protect and support New Jersey’s safety net hospitals. Senate President Steve Sweeney, Speaker Vincent Prieto, Senator Joe Vitale and Assemblyman Herb Conaway have also been incredible champions for these vital organizations. And now more than ever, we need these leaders to once again stand up and fight for our safety net hospitals.
Since 2009 our state has made big gains in health care. We expanded affordable coverage to almost 500,000 people through NJ FamilyCare. We invested $120 million in behavioral health. We created a coordinated plan to improve the health of all New Jerseyans by 2020. We launched one of the most innovative models of care in the country for our most vulnerable citizens. At the same time, New Jersey’s health care system has become safer and more stable
And now thanks to a bold and innovative proposal by our governor, we have now passed a law that will serve as a national model and guarantee access to treatment for our all our friends and family who are suffering from the disease of addiction.
Each of these triumphs can also be traced back to a choice our governor made. Our governor chose to expand Medicaid and put aside partisan politics to do what was right. He chose to brush stigma aside and become a much needed voice for the addicted. He chose to create one of the first Medicaid Accountable Care Organization programs in the country, funding innovative regional health care collaboratives focused on improving care for the most complex patients.
Last year, at a time when budgetary constraints led to one of the largest cuts to Charity Care in our state’s history, our governor chose to prioritize the funding of safety net hospitals. The bottom line is that in health care, our Governor chose time and time again to do the right thing for the people of New Jersey, even in the face of political expediency.
As CEO and president of the association that represents safety net hospitals, I want to personally thank the governor for his commitment to improving our communities and the lives of our patients. New Jersey’s safety net hospitals care for our most vulnerable citizens. They provide over 34,000 jobs in some of New Jersey’s lowest income communities. They treat people with problems that intersect health, poverty, criminal justice, mental health and addiction. Simply put, because of our governor’s leadership, not only is our safety net health care system stronger, but our entire health care system is stronger.
But the work is not done. Because of potential policy changes in Washington, further state budgetary constraints, and an intense push to earmark more funds to communities that do not face the same challenges as the underserved areas in our state, much of our progress and the health of our safety net institutions are at stake. That’s why we are asking Christie to stand with us once again. Without stable funding for New Jersey’s safety net hospitals, services could be cut in our poorest communities, jobs could be lost, and our collective progress towards making all of New Jersey a better place — especially for our least fortunate citizens – will stall.
The fact is that investments in our safety net hospitals are not merely investments in hospitals. They are investments in our entire communities — communities that are still in dire need. While only 8 percent of all New Jerseyans are living below the poverty line, according to the most recent census data, over 23 percent of people living in communities served by safety net hospitals live on less than $230 per week, and roughly 20 percent of our residents still lack health insurance. It is these communities where we should be investing the lion’s share of our limited state resources.
Real safety net hospitals are different than other hospitals. By mission, they serve communities in need. They prioritize service to the poor and to the vulnerable. They provide life-saving, innovative care to everyone who walks through their doors – in sickness and in health.
And they need your support.