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Atlantic City, New Jersey – Some of New Jersey’s most prominent labor unions, community organizations, healthcare advocates and social justice groups have joined together to announce the formation of the New Jersey Coalition for Affordable Hospitals (NJCAH) to fight for fair hospital pricing. The coalition launch comes on the same day as the release of a bombshell new report by the New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP), revealing New Jersey may be overpaying $1.26 billion dollars because of inflated hospital prices.
With high hospital prices accounting for the single biggest driver of healthcare costs and state government being the largest purchaser of healthcare services, leaders from the NJCAH attended the League of Municipalities conference to demand that the state take immediate action to rein in hospital prices. Since private hospital systems have thus far refused to bring their prices down to reasonable levels, in light of the findings of the NJPP report, People Pay, Hospitals Profit, which clearly showed how hospital prices are costing workers thousands in lost annual wages and putting a major financial strain on municipal and state budgets, the coalition believes that the state must step in and take policy and regulatory actions within its power to address these pricing issues.
The official launch and NJPP report come just a week after members of the coalition sent a letter to New Jersey State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio demanding the public release of a Rand Institute study detailing the cost of hospital care paid by the state. The Rand Corporation, a national leader on researching hospital pricing trends, has conducted an analysis of the NJ State Health Benefits Program’s pricing, which the NJCAH believes should be made public as it would provide vital information for all New Jersey residents on one of the major drivers of our state’s current fiscal crisis.
“Unfair and unjustifiable hospital prices are a clear and present danger to workers, private employers and state and local governments. From being an obstacle to quality and affordable healthcare for workers to draining billions of dollars from state and municipal government budgets at a time when funding for vital services is at risk, we cannot and should not be forced to continue to absorb escalating healthcare costs driven by hospital prices. With heroic doctors, nurses and medical staff saving lives every day, it’s time we stopped allowing private hospital executives to make us sick with their outrageous prices,” said Kevin Brown, New Jersey State Director of 32BJ SEIU.
“The patchwork health care system in the United States means that a complex network of factors hides the true causes of rising costs, including high hospital prices. When hospitals charge beyond what’s needed to cover their daily operating costs, we all pay more for the same level of care. High hospital prices are also passed on to public employees and state and local governments, costing the state more than $1.2 billion every year. It’s up to state lawmakers to explore ways to rein in these costs through policies like price caps and reference-based pricing so everyone in the state has access to affordable, high-quality health care,” said Brittany Holom-Trundy, Ph.D., Senior Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective and report author.
“Health care is not accessible if it is not affordable. The premium increases in the State Health Benefit Plans are a bellwether of what is happening with health care across New Jersey and are driving us back to a day when people are being forced to choose between paying for health insurance and paying for rent or groceries. We can’t afford to have our state pay extra for unjustifiable hospital expenses when that money should be funding essential medical services for New Jersey residents. NJCA stands by our labor partners in the Coalition for Affordable Hospitals in calling for the immediate action and real reform needed to rein in out-of-control hospital and health care prices, and to ensure health care is affordable for all New Jersey workers, taxpayers and consumers,” said Maura Collinsgru, NJCA Director or Policy and Advocacy.
“CWA is joining with other unions, community activists and social justice advocates in calling out hospitals for their out-of-control pricing and the part they play in making health insurance unaffordable. Year after year the cost of health insurance goes up. Why is that? We have to stop the cost shifting to workers, stop scaling back coverage, and start looking at the cost drivers and holding those accountable who are profiting at our expense,” said Fran Ehret, CWA NJ Director.
“When healthcare costs spiral out of control, other priorities suffer. We need real reform and meaningful action to control hospital costs so we can invest those dollars toward our students’ success instead,” said NJEA President Sean M. Spiller.
Not only has there been a recent and dramatic rise in the cost of the State Health Benefits Program, but research has also shown that state benefits plan and commercial payers are routinely being charged more than double what a hospital’s actual break-even price (how much a hospital needs to charge to effectively function) would be. According to the NJPP report, this means that the NJ State Health Benefits Program is paying billions of dollars unnecessarily.
Founding members of the NJCAH include 32BJ, the New Jersey Policy Perspective, Communication Workers of America (CWA), the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), New Jersey Police Benevolence Association (NJPBA), New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association (NJ FMBA), Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), the Rutgers chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP-AFT), the New Jersey Working Families Party and Citizen Action.