Hughes presents ordinance to create hospital fee program
Mercer selected for pilot program
TRENTON — Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes has presented to the Board of County Commissioners a proposed ordinance based on a State pilot program aimed at ensuring that local hospitals can continue to provide necessary services to low-income and underinsured citizens. The ordinance, which imposes a fee on the hospitals, would also provide for new fiscal resources for the County.
“This program would benefit our hospitals by providing them with more federal and state funding to help offset the uncompensated costs they incur when they serve underinsured patients,” Mr. Hughes said. “The additional funding it generates for the County would benefit our constituents.”
The County Option Hospital Fee Pilot Program Act, which involves Mercer and six other counties, was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2018. The program is scheduled to run through June 30, 2026.
The Act authorizes the pilot counties to place a fee on certain medical services at hospital facilities within their borders — for Mercer County that includes Capital Health-Hopewell, Capital Health Regional, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital-Hamilton, St. Francis Medical Center, St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center and Princeton House Behavioral Health.
The money collected from the hospitals would then be used by the State of New Jersey to maximize federal revenue by seeking federal matching dollars to raise Medicaid rates for the hospitals.
Mercer’s proposed fee and expenditure report for its area hospitals, which was developed in consultation with those hospitals, was approved by the New Jersey Department of Health in February 2021. Per the report, the County’s share of the annual fee charged to and collected from the area hospitals is anticipated to be approximately $2.3 million. The State will now seek necessary approvals of the pilot counties’ respective fee and expenditure reports from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The hospital fee program could begin once federal approval has been granted.
The County last year retained the services of Eyman Associates, a Washington, D.C. law firm that concentrates on similar local provider fee programs, to assist it with implementing the hospital fee program. At the County Executive’s direction, the law firm worked closely with the local hospitals to develop the program’s fee structure.