HEALTH

Hospital Exec. Says Health Care Reform Act is a Mixed Bag but Will Make NJ Healthier

Health care is changing in New Jersey with fallout from the reform bill and various hospital mergers and acquisitions. President and CEO of Hackensack University Health Network Robert Garrett told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he believes health care reform will make New Jersey healthier and that hospitals need to grow in order to provide a more efficient health care system.

Garrett said in the current era of health care reform, bigger is better. “One of the goals of the Hackensack University Health Care Network is to create a network of hospitals and make sure that patients are cared for appropriately depending on what their level and what their need is at the appropriate setting,” he said. Another goal is to keep health care in New Jersey by offering high levels of care at community hospitals so patients don’t need to travel into New York City.

Hackensack University Health Network has done more than just add buildings to the area it serves. “We’ve assembled a great team at Hackensack University Medical Center. We’re very proud of it,” Garrett said. “We just actually recently were recognized by U.S. News and World report for being nationally known and recognized in nine clinical specialties.”

To help expand the network, Garrett said his organization uses a for-profit partner, Legacy Health Partners (LHP) from Texas, which owns part of the facilities. “What the for-profit partner brings to the table is access to capital to put money back into the hospital, back into the community,” he explained. “And the not-for-profit hospital like Hackensack brings the mission, the teaching facilities and the medical expertise to the table.”

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According to Garrett, LHP also has management experience in running the day-to-day operations at community hospitals.

Garrett called health care reform “a mixed bag” for the country. “There’s about 35 million additional Americans — some say up to 45 million Americans — who are either uninsured or under insured. So they will be getting access to insurance, which is a good thing,” he said. “But in order to pay for that, there will be some significant cuts under the health care reform bill that reimburse hospitals and physicians.”

Health care reform should help eliminate some of the expenses hospitals incur associated with the uninsured, Garrett said. “A lot of under insured patients show up at hospital emergency departments and they use the emergency department as their primary care physician and one of the aspects of providing additional insurance is hopefully the folks that are getting the insurance will find a primary care physician and seek care in an appropriate setting as opposed to an emergency department which is very expensive and not necessarily needed for a lot of the uses that it currently has,” he explained.

Garrett said if you look at the net impact, New Jersey will get healthier with health care reform. “I think there are some good aspects of the health care reform bill that will be a positive impact on the overall health of the New Jersey population,” he said.

The Hackensack University Health Network will acquire more facilities, according to Garrett. He said there will be more acquisitions because of “the environment that we find ourselves in. And again, if you think about the goal of health care in New Jersey, you really need a large network of community hospitals.”