Murphy’s budget lauded by leading health care associations

The $44.83 billion budget Gov. Phil Murphy proposed Tuesday was met with applause from the heads of two leading health care associations.

New Jersey Hospital Association CEO Cathy Bennett said the proposal recognizes the critical role of health care infrastructure and health care heroes in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we enter the second year of this pandemic, we know the steep financial costs for health care facilities as they cared for a surge of patients, incurring the dual impact of skyrocketing expenses and plunging revenue,” she said. “Increasing charity care funding and continuing to fund our regional coordinator hospitals is a strong statement of support in recognizing these challenges.”

Debra Wentz, CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, a statewide trade association representing 153 members, said her group is grateful the budget addresses the ongoing opioid crisis and pandemic, bolsters youth services with a sustained increase to children’s system of care rates and provides $86.1 million that will go to providers to cover two years of minimum wage increases.

“NJAMHAA applauds Gov. Murphy’s proposals related to health care, which include renewal and expansion of funding for women’s health and family planning; investment in first lady Tammy Murphy’s strategic initiatives to improve maternal and infant health and related racial disparities; provision of Medicaid coverage for one full year after childbirth; and strategic use of federal Medicaid funds to launch a Cover All Kids initiative for children who are currently uninsured,” she said.

“NJAMHAA supports the proposed increased funding for providers of residential services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities; expansion of the Pharmaceutical Assistance for the Aged and Disabled program; and continued investment to tackle the opioid crisis.”

Bennett, whose association represents more than 400 members, said her group is working to ensure the state’s health care system can emerge from the pandemic in an even stronger position.

Bennett said these items should be priorities:

  • Funding to reimburse health care sites for the programmatic and administration costs of the COVID vaccine to offset some of the added expenses of providing the vaccine to community members;
  • Funding for nursing home pilot projects to improve efficiencies of care and redesign efforts to best meet the needs of the residents within these communities;
  • Continued funding in the nursing home Medicaid rate to invest in employee wage increases and health care quality activities;
  • A 10% increase in the daily rate for assisted living providers to cover the cost of the state’s increase in the minimum wage;
  • A one-time add-on to the Medicaid capitation rate for Programs for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE, sites to address cost increases associated with converting to an entirely at-home operation to protect the frail elderly, including costs for testing, personal protective equipment, telehealth and transportation;
  • Transparency around the state’s Medicaid MCO spending, in order to reduce health care costs and identify best practices.

Wentz said the NJAMHAA is encouraged by Murphy’s health care priorities, including affordable and accessible health care, which is underway through the establishment of Get Covered New Jersey, New Jersey’s own health care insurance marketplace — which has extended its open enrollment through May 15.

“NJAMHAA commends the governor’s initiatives that are essential for individuals’ health and well-being by providing opportunities for them to lead meaningful, successful lives,” she said. “These include substantial funding for pre-K-12 education; free tuition for eligible students pursuing associate degrees and for the first two years at four-year public colleges and universities; workforce development and creation of jobs.

“We urge the state Legislature to not only support the governor’s proposals, but also address the significant increased need for mental health and substance use treatment amidst the pandemic by further expanding and strengthening proven community-based programs.”