Ocean County To Join State Program That Will Benefit Low Income Residents In Need Of Medical Care

In an effort to make certain low income residents consistently receive proper medical care and services at the hospitals serving Ocean County, the Board of Commissioners is moving forward with plans to join a state program that ultimately increases funding going to hospitals.

The Ocean County Board of Commissioners introduced an ordinance at its March 15 meeting entering into the state’s County Option Hospital Fee Pilot Program Act which helps increase funding for hospitals in Ocean County. A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for the Board’s April 19 meeting.

Under the program, the County assesses a fee on the hospitals that would make them eligible for matching federal funds. Through a series of steps with the state and federal governments, the program returns almost double the funds to the hospitals to help assure Medicaid patients reliably receive treatment and other health care services.

“This program is authorized by The County Option Hospital Fee Program Act, enacted by the state in 2018 and later amended in 2021 to support local hospitals in designated high need areas to ensure continued Medicaid access to critical health care services for needy and vulnerable populations,” said Ocean County Commissioner Virginia E. Haines, who brought the proposal to the Board of Commissioners. “Simply put, by becoming a part of this program, our participating hospitals will receive about $41 million, almost twice the fee assessed under the program.”

Ocean County would also receive a future financial benefit of about $2 million annually as a result of participating in the program.

Ocean County will be one of 12 eligible counties to join the program.

“We had discussions with the hospitals in Ocean County and they are in favor of participating in this program,” Haines said. “Our hospitals provide excellent care to all of our residents.

“The additional funding the hospitals will receive will help cover the costs related to providing quality health care services for low income individuals and families receiving Medicaid,” she said.

The participating hospitals all serve Medicaid patients.

“On behalf of our participating hospitals, Community Medical Center, Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus, and the RWJBarnabas Health Behavioral Health Center, RWJBarnabas Health commends the leadership of Ocean County in its evaluation, design and decision to move forward towards the implementation of this innovative program,” said John W. Doll, Chief Operating Officer for RWJBarnabas Health. “The County Option Hospital Program enables hospitals within Ocean County to partner with County leadership to optimize Medicaid dollars to better serve our patients and community members.  Through this unique partnership the State, County and hospitals are able to improve the NJ Medicaid program through increased reimbursement rates to maintain critical access and hospital services.  We thank Ocean County for their engagement to date and look forward to the ongoing partnership for the benefit of our Ocean County residents.”

“The purpose of the program is to increase financial resources through the Medicaid program to support local hospitals and to ensure that they continue to provide vital health care services to low income citizens,” Haines said.

Under the program, the hospitals will be assessed a fee totaling about $22.7 million to be used as matching funds for the Medicaid program. In return local hospitals will receive about $41 million.

“The greatest benefit of this program will be to the critically vulnerable population,” said Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Joseph H. Vicari. “This will provide the funds for essential health programs and services to mothers and children, the elderly and all those who are low income and worry about getting important medical care.”

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