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Bipartisan effort gets NJ hospitals funds they deserve Bipartisan effort gets NJ hospitals some Medicare funding they deserve

Press of Atlantic City - 9/10/2017

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services tried again this year to cut back funding that hospitals, mainly in South Jersey, pay providers to care for seniors and low-income patients.

Happily, New Jersey's entire congressional delegation worked together to continue the funding for another year - just as it had to do last year.

As a result, 17 hospitals in the state will share $36.5 million to pay physicians and other providers for Medicare services, helping offset high employee costs in the Garden State.

Since the funding is part of a CMS "rural floor policy," 12 of the hospitals getting the funds are in South Jersey, including Cape Regional Medical Center ($332,000) and Inspira's medical centers in Vineland, Salem and Woodbury ($4.3 million total).

In 2015, CMS decided New Jersey - as one of three states it designates as all-urban, along with Delaware and Rhode Island - no longer qualified for its special funding pool to support labor costs in less populated areas. But although North Jersey is indeed highly urbanized, vast areas of South Jersey remain largely rural.

In May, all 14 members of the state's congressional delegation signed a letter calling for CMS to again extend the state's qualification for the funding pool. That and more direct lobbying paid off last month when CMS agreed - but just for another year.

Rep. Frank LoBiondo said the extension of the "imputed rural floor" for the state "will ensure our hospitals are able to continue serving New Jersey residents most in need."

Betsy Ryan, CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association, thanked the delegation and gave credit in particular to the 3rd District's representative. "We especially want to acknowledge the work of Congressman Tom MacArthur for his leadership and outreach to members of the administration to educate them about the unique concerns of an all-urban state like New Jersey," she said.

MacArthur said he was proud to work with U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and LoBiondo on the funding extension, adding, "I appreciate the Trump administration for granting it."

New Jersey hospitals got other good news in the past month, with many ranking highly in U.S. News and World Report's annual best national and regional hospital ratings.

AtlantiCare, which has two acute-care hospitals among 70 locations in five southern counties, tied for fifth-best regional hospital in New Jersey. Inspira Medical Center Vineland tied for 13th. There are 71 acute-care facilities in the state.

We think the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should permanently restore the eligibility of New Jersey hospitals for rural support to providers.

South Jersey won't be urbanized like the north anytime soon, and we hope it always retains its more natural, less hectic character.

The failure of CMS to recognize that is unfair to the many senior citizen and low-income patients in the region.

 
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