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NJBIA recently hosted a virtual Health Affairs Policy Committee Meeting, with dynamic speakers that highlighted the healthcare investments and initiatives outlined in the FY2024 budget, and discussed the healthcare workforce issues and innovative solutions to address this crisis.  

Kaylee McGuire, Deputy Commissioner for Aging and Disability Services at NJ Department of Human Services, and Cort Adelman, Vice President of Government Relations for Virtua Health, served as guest speakers.  

With the FY2024 budget signed by Gov. Phil Murphy last month, McGuire highlighted the New Jersey Department of Human Services’ major investments and priorities for 2024 and beyond.  

Among the highlighted investments was a significant one-time allocation of $100 million, which aims to strengthen the Department’s infrastructure, enhance services within home and community-based settings, and bolster the workforce.  

Funding has been allocated for loan redemption, tuition assistance, recruitment, and retention bonuses to support workers serving individuals with disabilities, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders.  

The budget also prioritized critical wage investments, providing over $181 million in new state and federal funding for wage increases to support behavioral health and substance use providers, direct service professionals, childcare workers, and certified nurse aides, among others. . 

McGuire noted key investments in long-term services and supports, including the addition of $120 million in state funds to increase nursing home rates, $50 million allocated the Quality Incentive Payment program to support nursing facilities and the continuation of tiered rate incentives for assisted living.  

The budget also allocates $14 million to continue investments in the Cover All Kids program, which has enrolled more than 55,000 children to receive access to healthcare.  

Adelman went on to address the pressing challenges and opportunities for Virtua Health, the largest health system in South Jersey, to deliver quality healthcare.  

To address their workforce challenges, Virtua Health partnered with Rowan University to create the Virtua Health College of Medicine and Life Sciences, an initiative that focuses on patient care, education, and research.  

Through this initiative, Virtua Health provides opportunities for existing and potential nursing staff to obtain advanced degrees and training. This affiliation also allows Virtua to establish new residency programs based on staffing needs, expand existing programs and attract, retain and develop talent. 

Addressing the issue of healthcare worker violence is also a priority as incidents of assaults and threats towards healthcare staff have increased.  

In May 2023, Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Health Care Heroes Violence Prevention Act to increase penalties for such assaults, which Virtua Health supported. 

Adelman highlighted the emergence of innovative models of care and care delivery, such as Hospital at Home, mobile-integrated health and telehealth, during the pandemic and their positive impact on workforce retention.  

Such healthcare delivery strategies have shown promise in retaining employees who want to continue providing patient care but seek to leave the traditional acute care setting engaged and connected with patients. Virtua Health sees these models as opportunities to retain healthcare workers who might otherwise leave the industry. 

As the meeting concluded, Althea D. Ford, NJBIA’s Vice President of Government Affairs, provided updates on several pieces of healthcare legislation:    

  • The Governor signed several bills into law that address prescription drug affordability S1614, S1615, and A536/A2841. While laudable in their goal to address healthcare costs, NJBIA remains concerned about the singling-out of the pharmaceutical industry as a cost driver, strongly recommending a more holistic and comprehensive approach to understanding healthcare affordability.  
  • A5137/S3480, the Small Businesses Health Insurance Affordability Act awaits signature by the Governor. The small employer market has been declining over the years and investment in this sector is necessary to ensure that businesses can continue to offer quality health insurance to their employees without being priced out. 
  • NJBIA supports the Hospital at Home Act, A4914/S3626, which awaits signature by the Governor. This legislation presents opportunities for innovation in healthcare delivery, inspiring healthcare providers to continue their life-saving work in an alternative way, and potentially alleviating some of the workforce challenges they currently face.