Betsy Ryan is president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association. Her blog, Healthcare Matters, examines the many issues confronting New Jersey's hospitals and their patients. Readers are encouraged to join the discussion, because healthcare matters - to all of us.

Hospitals Provides Jobs, Charity Care – and Hope

Even as our nation struggles to return to a more stable economy, a recent report shows that New Jersey’s hospitals are a strong and reliable source of jobs and economic growth. Garden State hospitals delivered 140,000 jobs statewide and about $18.6 billion in economic activity in 2010 – a $40 million increase compared with 2009. The full report is available here. You can search for details on your own local hospital’s economic contributions, as well as for individual counties.

Not only are hospitals the places you turn to in your time of need for quality patient care, hospitals are the economic engines that power our communities. Our healthcare community is a source for hope. It brings stability to our state and offers continued hopes for an economic recovery. Beyond jobs, our hospitals delivers $8 billion in employee salaries, $2.3 billion in services purchased from other N.J. businesses and $420 million in income taxes paid by hospital employees. And they play another essential role as our state’s healthcare safety net. N.J. hospitals provided $1.3 billion in charity care services last year to New Jersey’s uninsured and working poor. Clearly, our hospitals play a vital role in supporting our nation during tough times and leading the journey to economic recovery.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 19:40

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Healthcare Offers Rare Glimmer of Hope on Jobs Front

New Jersey and the rest of our nation continue to struggle with unemployment. President Obama has been on a cross-country bus tour touting his “Jobs” plan, and the GOP candidates have made jobs a central part of their debates. Meanwhile, Congress has been unable to forge any consensus on a jobs bill. But here in New Jersey, hospitals and healthcare providers are providing a glimmer of hope.

Healthcare employment increased 1.5 percent in New Jersey in 2010, according to a recent report from the state Department of Labor and Workforce. That same report says that the “healthcare and social assistance” sector remains the largest source of private-sector jobs in New Jersey, employing 493,410 people stateside. Of these, New Jersey hospitals provide about 140,000 jobs and about $18.6 billion in total contributions to the state’s economy. On the national level, healthcare recorded 44,000 new jobs in the September jobs report. The August report had shown healthcare as the lone source of new jobs in our otherwise stagnant employment market.

So New Jersey’s healthcare community is a source for hope, not just for the quality care we provide to people in their times of need, but because we are one of the only economic engines generating new jobs. My hope is that those contributions are not stamped out due to new cuts being contemplated on Capitol Hill. If the so-called “Super Committee” charged with reducing the federal budget deficit fails to identify $1.2 billion in cuts and secure both congressional and presidential approval, the healthcare provider industry is slated to be cut by 2 percent. This would cut N.J. hospital and post-acute care providers by about $130 million in its first year – on top of $4.5 billion in cuts New Jersey hospitals will shoulder under the Affordable Care Act. An analysis by the American Hospital Association shows that the proposed 2 percent Medicare cut would result in 200,000 hospital jobs lost nationwide.

So while Congress can’t agree on a “Jobs” bill, my plea is that we avoid stamping out one of the only glimmers of hope in our economy by enacting more cuts to healthcare.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 20:08

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Your Challenge: An Exercise in Debt Reduction

Anyone who’s responsible for juggling a personal or household budget knows the pitfalls of taking on too much debt. Unfortunately, the federal government has found itself in a situation where our national debt is growing out of control. Public policymakers have indicated that we have much work to do if we want to stabilize the debt at 60 percent of the gross domestic product by 2018.

I’ve discovered an interesting online resource called “Stabilize the Debt: an Online Exercise in Hard Choices,” which is offered by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), a bipartisan, nonprofit organization committed to educating the public about issues that have significant fiscal policy impact. (Here’s the link: ) The “Stabilize the Debt” simulator was designed to demonstrate how budget choices affect debt held by the public in the medium- and long-term. It illustrates the tough choices that will have to be made to achieve a goal of stabilizing the debt at 60 percent of GDP by 2018. This goal is a recommendation of the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform in its report, Red Ink Rising. The CRFB, which runs the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform, receives significant funding from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

I was recently asked to complete the exercise in making hard choices. The budget simulator walks you through different budget options for reducing the debt that include increasing revenues and/or decreasing government spending. The objective of the exercise is to make choices that stabilize the debt at 60 percent of GDP by 2018.

Try it. See what hard choices are on the horizon for public policymakers. It won’t be easy, but it is something we must undertake as a nation.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 20:42

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