Reinhardt Commission Report: New Jersey Hospitals Need To Focus On Blocking and Tackling

January 31, 2008

     [Image: 2005 Texas Longhorn football team playing the University of Colorado, by Johntex 2005]

          The New Jersey Commission On Rationalizing Health Care Resources (a/k/a the “Reinhardt Commission”) issued its long awaited Final Report 2008 last week, and was immediately met with a strong response from the New Jersey Hospital Association. In a press release, and more thoroughly in an “Initial Response” distributed to its members, the NJHA praised the Commission\’s Report “for effort” but found “it falls short in addressing the most fundamental problem confronting our state\’s hospitals: inadequate reimbursement, especially from governmental payers. The Commission\’s recommendations provide some steps for stopgap or incremental relief, but New Jersey\’s healthcare crisis is beyond the point of incremental action.”
           It is hard to argue with the NJHA\’s point that  the reimbursement to its member hospitals by governmental payers (Medicare, Medicaid and Charity Care) is woefully less than the cost of providing that care, and that this problem is at the root of the system-wide financial crisis in the state. Perhaps the Reinhardt Commission\’s Report could have said this more clearly, or more forcefully.
          But I did not read the rest of the Report to suggest only “some steps for stopgap or incremental relief”.  Instead, I think the Report took a realistic approach to solving the big problems by recommending a variety of significant but generally feasible changes in the way hospitals do business. Yes, hospitals need, deserve and in some cases must have more governmental funding to continue their missions. But the idea that all of the hospitals\’ financial problems can and will be solved only by somebody in Trenton or Washington writing a big check distracts from what the Report says hospitals must and can do to help themselves.
          In short, and in the spirit of the big game this Sunday, the Reinhardt Commission Report essentially urges New Jersey hospitals to focus on their “blocking and tackling”, those elements of the game that don\’t get the media attention or the big money endorsements, but tend to separate the winners from the losers. In particular, the Report contains a thorough and insightful analysis of the relationship of hospitals and physicians, with recommendations for improvement that could have a major, positive impact on the financial performance of most hospitals. I think that\’s something worth talking about, and I plan to do so in some posts to follow.
          In the meantime, Go Giants!