Attempting to break a political logjam, the New Jersey Hospital Association last week put the state Legislature and Gov. Christine Todd Whitman on notice that its 84 acute-care hospital membe rs won't sit back and wait for charity-care payments to be resumed.The NJHA said it has obtained permission from its board to sue the state for nearly $100 million in unreimbursed care provided since December 1995, when the state's charity-care funding law expired. "We'll sue under the premise of an unfunded mandate," said Gary Carter, the association's president.Jayne Rebovich, Whitman's deputy press secretary, said the governor is aware of the hospitals' charity-care funding needs. "Discussions between the administration and Legislature are ongoing," she said. In recent weeks, various measures for funding charity care have surfaced, but none has gained enough support to move for ward. Business and labor groups continue to oppose the use of the state's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, saying such subsidies should come from the state's general revenues. The latest compromise pares charity-care subsidies to $275 million from the $400 million received last year. In 1995, hospitals provided $616 million of charity-care services, the NJHA said.The association said it hasn't decided yet whether to file suit in state or federal court. Ask ed whether the action represents more than a threat, Ron Czajkowski, an NJHA spokesman, said, "We're tired of waiting for what's legally ours." Some hospitals are in imminent danger of having to lay off workers and delay vendor p ayments, he said.At a press conference last week, NJHA executives, joined by representatives of the Hospital Alliance of New Jersey, a 21-member urban hospital group, and University Health System of New Jersey, a New Brunswick-base d teaching hospital consortium, charged the business community with obstructing attempts to use public funds to reimburse care for uninsured workers. The hospital groups urged their members to require vendors to provide health insu rance for their workers. Of the state's 1 million uninsured, 600,000 are employed but lack health coverage, they said.University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-University Hospital in Newark, which received $48 million in s ubsidies last year, eliminated 275 jobs in 1995 and could be forced to further reduce its 466-member staff unless charity-care payments are resumed, said William L. Vazquez, vice president and chief executive officer. However, beca use the hospital is a state-subsidized operation, it cannot participate directly in any lawsuit.The standoff is particularly onerous for the state's urban hospitals. Members of the Hospital Alliance of New Jersey provided an estima ted $447.1 million of charity-care services last year and received $190.9 million in subsidies.
THE WEEK IN HEALTHCARE;CHARITY CARE;N.J. HOSPITAL GROUP WINS OK TO SUE STATE
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