Hospital Association glad charity care funding level maintained

TRENTON – The N.J. Hospital Association said the state’s announcement of maintained charity care funding gives predictability to an expensive area.

The Department of Health said Friday it would keep charity care funding at $675 million in fiscal year 2014. That and graduate medical education funding – rising $10 million to $100 million – are the two largest funding pools.

Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd said that release of the figures now, which used to occur in July, helps hospitals know what to expect.

The charity care funding “is a financial backbone and health care safety net for all citizens of New Jersey,’’ she said.

Although the overall charity care funding remains the same, specific hospitals can expect to see some changes, depending on the actual level of care provided, O’Dowd said.

The funding for charity care in FY14 was based on calendar year 2011 claims that were filed, and there was a $32 million decrease in documented charity care for that year, she said.

It is too soon to tell if that signals a trend, or why that drop occurred, according to O’Dowd and the president of the hospital association.

“A one-year dip does not a trend make,’’ said NJHA President and CEO Elizabeth Ryan.

O’Dowd said that while the state refrained from making “fundamental’’ changes based on one year’s data, “We need to start planning now for fiscal year 2015. Given the Medicaid expansion and health care reform, we need to sit down now to think about fiscal year 2015.’’

One of the main changes in that regard will involve a pool of $166.6 million that is part of the Medicaid waiver, an incentive-based pool that hospitals may choose to apply for later this spring.

The money is tied to investments hospitals make in quality of care in specific areas.  No hospital is guaranteed specific dollars unless it shows it made an appropriate investment, according to O’Dowd, who cautioned that some hospitals may choose not to apply at all.

Earlier story:

Health Dept. unveils hospital funding figures