We finished 2023 with major successes on improving health care access and equity. Two laws, both based on our earlier white paper, were enacted to make the New Jersey small employer health insurance market more affordable. Next, based on our call for action, the governor signed a law on Monday enabling licensed clinical social workers, professional counselors, and marriage and family therapists to directly bill New Jersey Medicaid for their services. The law will dramatically expand access to behavioral health care for people insured through Medicaid. These successes and other steps we took in 2023 with you, our members, lay the groundwork for our ambitious 2024 policy agenda. Here is a preview of our 2024 priorities:
Pushing for the Adoption of an Integrated Behavioral Health-Primary Care License
Many of you joined our call for the adoption of a state Integrated License for primary care and behavioral health care. The license would have the triple benefit of reducing stigma around behavioral health, increasing access to behavioral health services, and better integrating physical and mental health. We have an ongoing dialogue with the New Jersey Department of Health and have been assured that the work is well under way and a top priority. Stay tuned.
Supporting Payment Reforms for Advanced Primary Care
Advanced Primary Care is team-based care that requires a reasonable payment arrangement to sustain — including adequate fee-for-service payments and capitated payments to enable practices to offer same-day access, spend more time with patients, and provide other valuable, but not always billable, services and technical platforms. We will continue our call for supporting primary care, including payment parity. In New Jersey today Medicaid pays primary care practices about half of what Medicare pays on primary care fee-for-service rates. This underpayment limits access and increases health inequities. We will continue spreading the word about the need for greater support for Advanced Primary Care and the steps needed to get there.
Creating Statewide and Local Plans to Support Healthy Aging
A Framework for an Age Friendly New Jersey was the topic of our 2023 Winter conference. As our population ages, this topic has become increasingly important to us and our members. We know New Jersey residents prefer to stay in their homes and communities as they age. That means communities must make modifications in planning, housing, and services to accommodate the changing demographics. We’ll focus on Healthy Aging in our policy planning efforts, explore workforce needs to provide care and services at home and in the community, PACE expansion, palliative care and hospice, and addressing safety and quality issues to ensure that residents of nursing homes are receiving safe, respectful care.
Maternal Health and Reproductive Health
In 2024, we will continue to build on our strong focus around quality improvement, equity, and access in maternal child health. A major goal is to continue on our work with TeamBirth and expand the innovative care model to more hospitals to strengthen communication between the health care team and the pregnant individual. The positive experiences at hospitals and birth centers already using TeamBirth and the program’s impact on reducing race and ethnicity-based disparities is encouraging. Reproductive health also remains a focus. As reproductive rights are under attack nationally, the Quality Institute will work to ensure that in New Jersey everyone can access over-the-counter oral contraceptives, now available because of regulatory changes, regardless of their health insurance. Meanwhile, our work on the Maternity Action Plan is continuing in 2024. We are working with hospitals and doulas throughout the state to create best practice guidance to encourage greater access for doula support.
Our members are essential to everything we do. Please keep sharing your ideas and priorities with us. We look forward to a productive 2024.