NJHA report: N.J. hospitals delivered $3.4B in community benefit programs in 1st year of pandemic

Bigger number may be this: N.J. hospitals have successfully discharged 140,000 COVID patients since start of pandemic

Residents across the state saw firsthand how New Jersey hospitals stepped up and gave life-saving care during the worst pandemic in a century.

A recently released report attempts to quantify that effort in dollars.

Always There for Patients & Community, a report from the New Jersey Hospital Association on hospitals’ community benefit contributions during 2020, the pandemic’s first year, found that New Jersey hospitals and their employees saved lives, protected their communities through vaccination and continued to provide $3.4 billion in additional community benefits, including food assistance, mental health support and free and discounted care.

Beyond that total is a massive investment by New Jersey hospitals in responding to COVID-19 when it arrived in the state in March 2020, the NJHA said. Because community benefit reporting is based on standardized definitions, hospital efforts to expand bed capacity, open testing sites, educate community members and vaccinate New Jerseyans are not captured in the totals.

The biggest number may be this: The state’s hospitals have successfully discharged 140,000 COVID patients since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

“It’s impossible to measure the value of those 140,000 lives returning to their loved ones, their homes, their jobs,” NJHA CEO Cathy Bennett said. “It’s part of the commitment of New Jersey hospitals and their employees to serve and protect their communities.”

As one of the first states to be hit with COVID, New Jersey hospitals and their care teams were at the forefront in honing COVID care and treatment protocols. Their expertise, plus a statewide vaccination blitz, increased the COVID survival rate in New Jersey from 73.6% in April 2020 to 96.1% in June 2022 — the equivalent of 19,000 deaths averted, the report said.

The report also reflects the following statewide tallies of hospital community benefit:

  • $2 billion in unpaid costs of care delivered to patients, which includes charity care for the uninsured, the unpaid costs of treating Medicare and Medicaid patients and the costs of other care delivered without receiving payment;
  • $43.2 million in community health improvement services, which include prevention, wellness and other services such as nutrition programs, clinics and health screenings;
  • $224.1 million in health professions education, which includes continuing education for today’s employees and graduate medical education for the next generation of health care professionals;
  • $1.2 billion in other community benefit programs, which includes initiatives that respond to a local need, such as investments in housing, local safety partnerships or contributions to municipal services or community groups.

These totals are based on reports from 90% of the state’s nonprofit hospitals and then extrapolated to reflect 58 nonprofit hospitals in the state.

“Hospitals are anchors in their communities in countless ways — 24/7 access to health care services; billions of dollars in unpaid care to the poor and uninsured; 150,000 reliable, well-paid jobs; and millions of dollars invested in social determinants of health,” Bennett said. “Hospitals’ support helps relieve government’s burden while also fulfilling their commitment to building healthy communities.”