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.

Healthcare Reform at the SCOTUS: What We’ll be Watching For

I’m tuned in to C-SPAN this week and assorted blogs to follow the Supreme Court arguments on the future of the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare, depending on what side of the political fence you sit on.) I’m disappointed the Supreme Court is not televising the oral arguments. And as an attorney, I will be listening in particular to what Justices Kennedy, Scalia and Roberts are asking. They’re the potential swing votes that could ultimately decide this case.

I’ve been asked often for my take on repealing the Affordable Care Act. I certainly can’t predict the outcome, but I do know this: The biggest worry for healthcare providers (and their patients) is that the Court will strike down the individual mandate but leave the rest of the law intact – including billions of dollars in funding cuts to healthcare.

Under the ACA, the nation’s hospitals will see $155 billion in cuts over nine years, including $4.5 billion in cuts for New Jersey hospitals. Moving forward, those cuts would be devastating for our industry if they are not balanced by the promise of 3O million newly insured individuals under the ACA. Hospitals conceded these cuts because we thought it was the right thing to do to provide health insurance coverage to more Americans, but we can only withstand the cuts if we are caring for more insured patients. We can't continue to care for the same number of uninsured and absorb the cuts as well. That's why we believe the ACA must be upheld in its totality, and if the Court strikes down the mandate it must also strike down provider reductions.

If those deep healthcare cuts are not offset by more people with health insurance, that’s a worst-case scenario for our healthcare system. And that’s a worry not just for the uninsured, but for everyone who counts on access to quality healthcare in their communities.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 13:41

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Happy Anniversary to the Girl Scouts

They say once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout. I was both a Brownie and a Girl Scout growing up, and I read with interest recently that the Girl Scouts are celebrating their 100th Anniversary in 2012. Being a Girl Scout taught me a great deal: the importance of being part of a larger group (which has come in handy leading a 300-plus-member healthcare association); the amazing feeling of accomplishment when you earned a badge (even though I did earn a badge for sewing, I never learned to enjoy sewing them on my sash); how to approach someone with confidence (essential for someone selling their own weight in cookies.) To this day, I can’t go by those cookie vendors without buying a couple of boxes. I also got my first taste of leadership when my troop elected me division leader. I will never forget how proud I was to put on my uniform for every meeting.

No matter what your field, the lessons and life skills learned in the Girl Scouts never go out of fashion. So thank you to the Girl Scouts, and congratulations on reaching a century milestone.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 13:37

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Patients Are Essential Partners in Making Healthcare Better

This week is National Patient Safety Awareness Week – “awareness” being the key word. Because for all the work the healthcare industry has done in the past decade to improve patient safety, it’s you, the individual, who has perhaps the most important role.

Patient safety is a partnership between healthcare professionals and the people they care for. We want you to feel empowered to ask questions and raise concerns with your clinicians. And you hold the key to your own well-being and safety through a healthy diet and exercise, preventive care and managing chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure.

The National Patient Safety Foundation provides resources and information for patients and healthcare consumers to contribute to making healthcare safer. The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also offers a wealth of information, including tips to help patients ask the right questions of their doctor or nurse.

And NJHA’s Institute for Quality and Patient Safety – which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in working to improve healthcare – has led several initiatives, including statewide efforts to prevent patient falls and reduce infections. In keeping with the “awareness” theme, one of our resources is a medication safety effort called “It’s Your Healthcare: Be Involved,” which helps individuals manage their medications and prevent any unintended drug interactions. You can find out more here, and even download a personal medication safety card.

This year’s observance of Patient Safety Awareness Week officially ends March 10, but the work does not. We encourage you to be a partner with your healthcare provider in promoting safer, better healthcare.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 14:59

Congressman Payne: A Trailblazing Leader for New Jersey

NJHA sends it condolences to the Payne family over the passing of Congressman Donald Payne. Congressman Payne has served the 10th congressional district of New Jersey for 22 years. He is truly a trailblazer, being the first African American elected to Congress from the State of New Jersey. He also served as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congressman Payne served his constituents and all the people of New Jersey very ably for over two decades. It is a sad day for our state. We will miss him and the leadership he so often provided on key issues.
Written by Betsy Ryan at 17:40

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POLST Empowers Patients in End-of-Life Care

Gov. Christie recently signed into law a new program called “POLST,” which stands for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. This is a new vehicle for patients and their doctors to – voluntarily – spell out for future caregivers and family members the patient’s goals, particularly at the end-of-life. Working closely with a physician or advanced practice nurse, an individual can put into writing the types of care that he or she wants – or does not want – during the end stages of a life-limiting illness or chronic disease. Because the document is signed by a physician or advance practice nurse, the experience of other states has been that POLST is followed by other practitioners of care. And because family members see that mom, or dad, or Aunt Betty signed the form themselves, they are more comfortable with the decision. POLST will empower patients. Its use is voluntary, but we at NJHA think it’s a powerful tool for us to improve the care we provide at the end of life. We urge you to watch for POLST to be rolled out in New Jersey in the coming months and to use it as a catalyst to talk to your clinician and take control of your healthcare wishes. You can learn more at
Written by Betsy Ryan at 14:50