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Department Regulations Were Crafted in a Vacuum, Would Result in Denial of Care for Patients

TRENTON — In a letter sent to Governor Chris Christie and State regulators, Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Chairwoman Loretta Weinberg, Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver and a group of bicameral legislators raised issue with new regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Senior Services which would result in the denial of care for individuals receiving adult medical day care services.

“The fact that the new rules imposed on adult medical day care providers would result in loss of care for individuals in need is unacceptable,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “The fact that these rules were crafted in secret, absent any sort of public comment or hearing, is unbelievable. This is certainly not the way to create far-reaching health policy in the Garden State, particularly when so many people depend on the services that they and their loved ones receive from adult medical day care facilities.”

“We recognize that New Jersey is facing tough economic times, but cuts to adult medical day care represent an abandonment of one of the core principles defining government — to protect the most vulnerable,” said Senate President Sweeney, D-Gloucester Cumberland and Salem. “The new Department rules would not only deny coverage for seniors and individuals living with disability, but they provide no mechanism for the public to raise concerns. This is the sort of backroom, discompassionate government that gives public service a bad name.”

“I see many troubling aspects to how this process has been handled,” said Speaker Oliver, D-Essex and Passaic. “This change violates our most basic value of doing whatever we can, even in the toughest economic times, to protect residents most at risk. That in and of itself is unacceptable, but the process by which this change has been made, without public input and scrutiny, raises even more concerns.”

The lawmakers’ letter, signed by ten members of the State Senate and the General Assembly serving on the Legislative Health, Human Services, Budget, Finance and Oversight Committees, and addressed to Governor Christie, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, Commissioner of Health and Senior Services Poonam Alaigh and Commissioner of Human Services Jennifer Velez, notes that the Department of Health sent a memo to care providers recently, indicating a policy change which would restrict adult medical day care facilities from serving more Medicaid-eligible clients per day than their licensed capacity. Previous rules allowed facilities to surpass their licensed capacity if the demand for services was there, so long as they didn’t surpass more than 200 patients per day.

“Spending restraint is clearly necessary, but even in the worst of times we cannot walk away from the values we hold dear, including protecting and helping those who are most at risk,” said Assemblywoman Joan Quigley, D-Hudson and Bergen, who serves on both the Assembly Budget Committee and the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. “On top of that, changes like this that impact so many so drastically must be done with full transparency and public participation, not behind closed doors. This entire process isn’t serving anybody well.”

The lawmakers were concerned that this shift in State health policy for adult medical day care facilities would result in facilities being put in an untenable situation in which they have to decide which medically-compromised seniors they would discharge from their care. The new policy also sets up an incentive for facilities to only accept clients who would be profitable to the care provider, thus leaving underprivileged seniors and individuals with disabilities without access to adult day care services.

In addition, the Department did not follow the traditional regulatory review process, thereby preventing care providers, clients, the public and lawmakers a chance to review and comment before the new rules were put in place.

“We hope that Governor Christie and his administration reconsiders this poor health care precedent which would put the most vulnerable New Jerseyans in harm’s way without allowing for one word of public comment,” said Senator Weinberg. “I plan on convening the Senate Health Committee to investigate this issue further, and I know the Assembly Health Committee is planning hearings as well. The individuals served by adult medical day care providers and the families of those individuals deserve answers, and they deserve compassion, and right now, they’re not receiving either from the Christie administration.”

Click here to view the lawmakers’ letter.