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Atlantic County joins program to increase Medicaid funding to hospitals
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ATLANTIC COUNTY

Atlantic County joins program to increase Medicaid funding to hospitals

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A room at the AtlantiCare HealthPlex in Atlantic City.

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Atlantic County commissioners voted Tuesday to join a five-year pilot program that will increase Medicaid funding for AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center by almost $30 million, while bringing about $2.4 million in new revenues to the county.

The state program does it by having the county assess a fee to hospitals, which is sent to the state and used for getting matching federal funds to increase the hospital’s Medicaid reimbursement, officials said.

“It is designed to help ensure individuals with low income have access to medical resources,” AtlantiCare President and CEO Lori Herndon said.

Commissioners said they researched the details, which are complex, and feel confident it’s a good program.

Even though it has a “Rube Goldberg” feeling, with money being moved around, “it’s the only way to participate,” Commissioner John Risley said.

Goldberg was a cartoonist who depicted complicated gadgets performing simple tasks.

“We provide a disproportionate share of hospital services to un- and underinsured population — five times more than any other hospital in the county,” Herndon said. She said many of those costs are not covered by Medicaid or charity-care reimbursement.

“In the two full years before the pandemic, AtlantiCare provided $112 million of unreimbursed medical care for this vulnerable population,” Herndon said.

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The other three hospitals in the county will also participate. In addition to AtlantiCare they are Shore Medical Center in Somers Point, Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation in Galloway Township and Acuity Specialty Hospital of New Jersey in Atlantic City.

Reimbursement is calculated by the number of Medicaid days each facility provides, she said.

As part of its participation in the program, Atlantic County will also receive about $2.4 million per year, officials said.

Herndon said the hospital will pay about $22 million up front into the program.

Consultant Barbara Eyman of Eyman Associates said the hospital will get about $49 million back in a relatively short amount of time, for a difference of almost $30 million.

The program was created in 2018, when the state Legislature passed the County Option Hospital Fee Pilot Program. It is available only in counties with the highest un- and underinsured populations.

The commissioners also passed a resolution urging Gov. Phil Murphy to immediately make COVID-19 vaccinations available to all teachers and school district staff at their places of employment, to avoid further delays at other vaccination sites.

On Monday, Murphy announced that, starting March 15, pre-k-to-12 educators and support staff will be eligible for vaccines, along with child care workers, transportation workers and more public safety workers.

He also said food workers and other groups will be eligible beginning March 29.

Contact Michelle Brunetti Post: 609-272-7219

mpost@pressofac.com

Twitter @MichelleBPost

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Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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