Shore Medical Center

Shore Medical Center in Somers Point.

Staff photo by Edward Lea

Several South Jersey health care centers may receive smaller subsidies in the next fiscal year as state health officials adjust their formula for distributing $675 million in annual charity care funds.

Shore Medical Center in Somers Point would receive the largest decline — a 27 percent cut to $737,000.

Health officials said the proposed adjustments will be based on the number of charity cases hospitals served in 2011 — the latest year for which the department has statistics. Those that experienced a decrease that year would receive a smaller subsidy and those that served more cases would receive a larger share. The changes are included in Gov. Chris Christie’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

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“We did see increases and decreases, and each year we attempt to make, I would say, adjustments relative to the individual hospital experience,” said Mary E. O’Dowd, state health commissioner, adding that officials were trying to “as much as possible send the money to where the care is delivered.”

Other declines in subsidies would include Salem County’s Elmer Hospital, which is part of South Jersey Healthcare. It would receive $276,000, or nearly 15 percent less. The South Jersey Healthcare Regional Medical Center in Vineland would receive $2.3 million, or about 9 percent less.

Cape Regional Medical Center would receive about $1 million, or 2 percent less than the prior year.

“We are very disappointed with the additional state reduction of $20,000; however, it will not affect the operations or quality of care that we provide to our patients,” Tom Piratzky, the hospital’s spokesman, said in a statement.

AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center was the only one in the region that would receive a 1 percent bump in funding, to about $25 million. The numbers cover both main locations in Atlantic City and Galloway Township.

“We appreciate that the governor did not reduce the overall charity care budget. However, AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, which provides more charity care than the seven closest hospitals in our region combined, is still reimbursed at less than 50 percent of the total cost of the charity care it provides,” hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Tornetta said in a statement.

In 2012, AtlantiCare provided about $49 million in charity care, she said.

Charity care subsidies are given to hospitals to help defray some of the cost of providing care to patients who are uninsured or underinsured and meet income and asset eligibility.

“Not everyone who is uninsured qualifies for charity care,” O’Dowd said. “It really is a program focused on the working poor.”

Overall, the state had a 3 percent, or $32 million decrease, in the cost of charity cases in 2011 compared to the prior year, according to the health department. Officials said they don’t know the reason for the decline, saying it may be an anomaly or due to an investment in federally qualified health centers that helps serve the same population.

Despite the decline, Gov. Chris Christie has proposed continuing to fund the program at the same levels in the upcoming year, O’Dowd said.

The state also is expecting to boost its subsidy for graduate medical education by an additional $10 million to $100 million as part of Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal, officials said.

“We are pleased the governor has made healthcare spending a priority,” said Betsy Ryan, head of the New Jersey Hospital Association, a nonprofit trade organization.

South Jersey has few teaching hospitals in the region, with AtlantiCare expected to receive $1.5 million in the coming year. Tornetta said 42 physicians participate in the medical center’s residency program.

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