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Medical Overspending Can be Avoided

Editorial | University study results prove much can be done for health

A new University study found some startling results when it comes to the effectiveness of New Jersey’s urban medical facilities. The Affordable Care Act has brought us a long way when it comes to making sure Americans are receiving the health care they need, but it turns out that the lack of maintenance of that health is costing New Jersey millions of dollars. Getting treated in a hospital is one thing, but maintaining the benefits of that treatment is another.

The study was conducted between 2008 and 2010, and it explored how well our facilities are treating our poorest residents by measuring how many treated patients return to a hospital within 30 days. It also assessed how many times the emergency room is visited for non-emergency reasons and how often patients are unnecessarily admitted to hospitals.

The study found that within 2010 alone, the state overspent an estimated $284 million that it could have saved with the right precautions.

The problem is apparently that patients aren’t being proactive enough in combatting their ailments. Issues like not taking or completing medication, not attending doctors’ appointments and not taking the proper vaccinations create costly problems that could otherwise be avoided. In the case of Trenton, the third-worst township in the study, there was not enough money to have public-health facilities for things like prenatal care, which caused many low-income citizens to go to the emergency room or pursue charity care.

While New Brunswick-Franklin was the best-performing township in the study, every township was found to spend millions of dollars that could have been easily avoided.

It’s important the state take necessary measures to not only provide proper health care, but to encourage proper health as well. Instead of simply addressing medical issues, it’s important that we also take on a preemptive role in satisfying the needs of citizens to maintain their health. Whether that’s by ensuring they are taking the necessary medication or following up on their doctors’ appointments, it is perfectly within the state’s power to attempt more effective solutions.

To address Trenton’s difficult health care problems, competing medical facilities came together to create the Trenton Health Team, which coordinates proper care and attention for patients. In doing so, the township has reduced unnecessary emergency room visits by 45 percent and avoidable hospital stays by 56 percent. Clearly, better measures are possible – all they require is the collective efforts of our centers and health professionals.

As we mentioned in our March 26 editorial “Soda ban ineffective in end goal,” we can’t address health without also mentioning the socioeconomic problems that result in citizens’ health issues in the first place. The fact that lack of public health facilities is resulting in greater strain on medical services should raise necessary alerts on where our priorities needs to be. It’s also urgent that affordable alternatives to lifestyle choices be made available to the population in order to promote better livelihoods. Tackling socioeconomic issues would allow us to get to the heart of health problems.

With necessary liberties like the Affordable Care Act come necessary responsibilities. In order for the health of New Jerseyians to be truly tended, the proper measures must be taken to maintain it – on top of providing care for it. With appropriate attention, there is nothing stopping our state from reaching its fullest health care potential.

About the Trenton Health Team
Trenton Health Team (THT) is an alliance of the city’s major providers of healthcare services including Capital Health, St. Francis Medical Center, Henry J. Austin Health Center and the city’s Health Department. In collaboration with residents and the city’s active social services network, THT is developing an integrated healthcare delivery system to transform the city’s fragmented primary care system and restore health to the city. THT aims to make Trenton the healthiest city in the state. Support for the Trenton Health Team was provided in part by a grant from The Nicholson Foundation. For more information, visit