Still scrambling to fund hospital charity care, New Jersey's Republican-controlled Legislature reached another stop-gap compromise that trims subsidies below previously proposed levels and seemingly pleases no one.
Business and labor groups strongly oppose the agreement because it still draws substantially from the coffers of the state's unemployment insurance trust fund to pay for charity care and fails to provide a permanent funding solution. The New Jersey Business and Industry Association, whose members contribute to the fund, see it as "a tax on employers."
Gary Carter, president of the 114-member New Jersey Hospital Association, was glad to finally see some movement on the issue but said the funding levels are inadequate. The two-year plan reduces 1996 charity-care subsidies to $275 million and pares 1997 funding to $265 million. In 1995, hospitals received $400 million to subsidize $616 million of charity-care services, according to the NJHA.
Although a state Senate version of the plan was scheduled for a vote last week, various interest groups were lobbying in Trenton for substantive changes.
New Jersey's charity-care legislation expired last December and hospitals stopped receiving their monthly payments from the trust fund Feb. 15.