A message from Alexander J. Hatala, President and CEO, Lourdes Health System.
Voters rank health care along with the economy as the two most important domestic issues, both nationally and in New Jersey. As the national elections near for President and seats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, candidates are unveiling proposals on how to make health coverage affordable and available to all, particularly those who are uninsured.
Regardless of the details, the success or failure of any plan is dependant upon whether it is adequately and fairly financed. Up to this point, a patchwork of state and federal initiatives, along with ever increasing financial commitments from non-profit healthcare providers such as Lourdes, have been able to fend off catastrophe. However, these stop-gap measures are just delaying the inevitable and crippling the nation’s health system. True reform is necessary.
Many believe that access to affordable health care should be a right and not a privilege. It should be available and accessible to every United States citizen, with special efforts made to assure that the poor and vulnerable are not left behind. The consequences of being uninsured are significant. This is particularly true for children, who are less likely to receive treatment for common illnesses. Both uninsured adults and children are less likely to receive preventive care, while uninsured patients are up to four times as likely as insured patients to require both avoidable hospitalizations and emergency hospital care.
On the local level, as New Jersey faces a budget crisis, cuts to the provision of care to the uninsured are inevitable. While it may sometimes seem difficult to sort through all of the details of the issues, here are some important facts you should know:
- Although New Jersey has the second highest median income in the nation, 15 percent of New Jerseyans lack health insurance, tying it with West Virginia, Idaho, Alabama and Wyoming for the nation’s 19th highest rate of uninsured residents.
- By law, hospitals in New Jersey must care for all patients regardless of their ability to pay. Our state, with Oregon, is one of only two in the nation to mandate this coverage.
- The cost of hospitals to provide charity care to uninsured patients in New Jersey is more than $1.5 billion annually. The state reimburses hospitals about half that amount.
- Statewide, there are 78 acute-care hospitals; all but two are nonprofit.
- Almost 50 percent of hospitals in New Jersey are operating in the red, while the latest figures available for hospitals nationwide show that 18 percent are losing money.
- Since 1997, a total of 15 acute-care hospitals have closed their doors, including a number that closed in 2007 and additional facilities slated to close in 2008.
As a Catholic healthcare provider, we are committed to advocating for a just and equitable system that ensures medical care for all. I am worried about the ability of hospitals to continue to serve their mission – providing quality care to everyone without limits and variations based on age, race, ethnicity, financial means or health or employment status.
In order to help educate the public, over the coming months I will be providing updated information on our Web site about the health care issues that affect you.
We hope to gain your support for this cause and utilize our website as a key source or information about healthcare issues.