A Healthcare Coalition

By Renee Steinhagen

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NJ Appleseed’s Role in the New Jersey and Greater Newark Coalitions

Since our inception, NJ Appleseed has focused its efforts on health care issues, providing a legal voice to communities and organizations seeking to establish health care as a social right by preserving hospitals as charitable community assets, improving access to quality, affordable health care services, and diminishing racial disparities in the health status of Newark residents. Our work in this area can be characterized as three distinct projects: The Community Health Assets Protection Project (representing the community in administrative and court procedures to ensure that hospital boards satisfy their fiduciary duties to the public when seeking to merge or sell their charitable health assets to a for-profit entity or another nonprofit with a different mission); a Consumer Advocacy Project and a Transforming Healthcare Delivery Project.

Under the rubric of our Consumer Advocacy Project, NJ Appleseed has participated on the leadership team of the NJ Healthcare Coalition since its founding in 2006. As the only legal organization participating in the Coalition (Legal Services of NJ informally participates but is not a member), NJ Appleseed services the Coalition, its individual members and the public generally with respect to legal policy issues, including drafting and analyzing legislation, preparing regulatory comments, and preparing white papers and consumer manuals with respect to legal rights, such as the right to appeal insurance denials of benefits. We are now considering whether to convert the New Jersey Sentinel website (which was product of a joint project between NJ Appleseed and Seton Hall Law School, funded by RWJ Foundation to evaluate essential benefits) into a comprehensive consumer health care website that provides information directly to New Jersey consumers on how to navigate the insurance, health care (providers), and public health systems in the State, and perhaps the website could deal with occupational health and safety as well as environmental health issues.

Since the closure of St. James and Columbus hospitals in Newark, NJ Appleseed’s Executive Director has been a board member of the Greater Newark Healthcare Coalition (consisting of a wide array of providers, including hospitals, physicians, federally qualified health centers, nurses, etc.), which was established as the Hospital CEO Working Group as a result of those closures. The Coalition is a planning organization that oversees various projects that seek to transform the healthcare system so it is more equitable, socially and racially just, and effective in improving the health status of Newark residents. NJ Appleseed is the Chair of the Legal and Advocacy Subcommittee, which is the one Board committee that draws mainly from persons who are not represented on the board. As one of three non providers on the board –- representatives from NJIT and Seton Hall Law School are the other two –- NJ Appleseed is trying to bring the consumer perspective to the Board’s decision making, and to encourage community participation in the organization’s activities.

We are seeking resources to support our activities in these two coalitions.

Advisors

Same Day Registration

By Renee Steinhagen

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Since our inception, NJ Appleseed has focused its efforts on legal electoral reform issues. Most recently, we have characterized our efforts in this area as “Empowering Democracy,” including two distinct projects: Enabling the Franchise (improving access to and encouraging participation in elections, campaign finance reform initiatives and promoting alternative forms of voting) and Facilitating Initiative and Referendum. For the past four to five years, NJ Appleseed served as co-counsel with the Rutgers Clinic (representing the Rutgers Student Union Association, NJ Citizen Action, the Latino Action Alliance and several individual voters) in a constitutional challenge to New Jersey’s advanced election registration system. The theory behind the case was that in light of the implementation of the State’s electronic Statewide Voter Registration System (with its capacity to verify voters identifying information within 24 hours) and its employment of provisional ballot affirmation statements, which are effective registration forms, the State had no valid interest justifying the burden imposed by such requirement on an individual’s right to vote under the State Constitution. The litigation went to the Appellate Division twice, before our Petition for Certification before the NJ Supreme Court was denied.

I would like to convert our litigation theories into several mini-white papers that would support and frame a legislative campaign to secure Same-Day Registration through our current provisional ballot system. Such papers would focus on (1) the burden imposed on voters by advanced registration, in particular low-income voters; (2)the administration of same-day registration schemes in other States; (3) the logistics of voting in NJ including the challenge system, the mailing of ballots, the counting of mail and provisional ballots, and other administrative features; and (4) the capacity of the current SVR system to detect in person fraud or double voting.

NJ Appleseed would draft a proposed bill amending the current election code and generate a grass-roots campaign, with its partners, across the State to generate public support for permitting Same-Day registration by employing our current provisional ballot system. Depending on the outcome of the November 2017 election, I anticipate that we could get this change enacted by the middle of 2018 if Democrats prevail in the Legislature and Governor’s office.

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Partner organizations

Advisors

NJ APPLESEED FIGHTS FOR OPEN SPACE ON HOBOKEN WATERFRONT

Context of this Case

A battle over whether a developer will be allowed to renege on a promise to provide open space on the Hoboken waterfront was argued before the Appellate Division on February 28.

New Jersey Appleseed’s Renee Steinhagen represents Fund for a Better Waterfront in several related appeals involving the Monarch Towers development.

The dispute concerns whether two 11 -story condominium towers can be built on a nearly two-acre waterfront parcel where the developer promised in 1997 to provide open space, including tennis courts and the final segment of the developer’s Hudson River Waterfront Walkway.

The construction faces fierce public opposition and would violate Hoboken ordinances that prohibit residential development on piers and platforms over the Hudson River. Those ordinances were adopted in December of 2013 in response to Superstorm Sandy, and in conformance with newly adopted federal and state standards to protect communities from flood hazards.

Read below about this case and NJ Appleseed’s work: Ron Hine reports for the Fund for a Better Waterfront.

Continue reading NJ APPLESEED FIGHTS FOR OPEN SPACE ON HOBOKEN WATERFRONT

COURT ORDER DO-OVER ON PINELANDS PIPELINE APPROVAL

A lot of attention has been focused on the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would carry crude oil across four western states, damaging the environment and disturbing Native American historical and cultural sites.

Similar battles over proposed pipelines are taking place right here in New Jersey and recent developments will at least delay two of those projects and hopefully allow for more public input on their impact.

Continue reading COURT ORDER DO-OVER ON PINELANDS PIPELINE APPROVAL

LEGISLATION TARGETS $1 BILLION SURPRISE MEDICAL BILL PROBLEM

Surprise medical bills for out-of-network health care cost New Jersey residents nearly $1 billion per year, according to a report released last June by New Jersey Policy Perspective.

An estimated 168,000 people in the state receive out-of-network (OON) bills totaling $420 million per year but the actual cost is much higher because OON charges drive up the cost of the health insurance premiums paid by roughly 5 million New Jerseyans, for an estimated total cost of $956 million.

Continue reading LEGISLATION TARGETS $1 BILLION SURPRISE MEDICAL BILL PROBLEM

How will sale of Saint Michael’s Hospital transform healthcare in Newark?

Governor Chris Christie’s administration has put off for nearly three years deciding what it should do about the future of healthcare in Newark. But the scheduled sale of the bankrupt Saint Michael’s Medical Center, one of five Newark hospitals, should force a decision.

The outcome of the sale will likely help shape the quality of healthcare that Newark residents receive, according to industry attorneys and analysts. It could also affect the financial stability of all of the city’s hospitals.

State involvement in hospital bankruptcies normally is limited to issues related to operating licenses. But not in this case, for three reasons:

First, the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority, which is chaired by Acting Commissioner of Health Cathleen Bennett, issued tax-exempt bonds for Saint Michael’s that currently total roughly $230 million.

Second, the state also owns another troubled Newark facility — University Hospital, which is facing millions of dollars in annual operating losses for the foreseeable future.

Third, if the state allows the sale of Saint Michael’s it should get a short-term financial shot in the arm. But if were to decide to take over the facility, it could realize a greater payback over a longer period.

Continue reading How will sale of Saint Michael’s Hospital transform healthcare in Newark?

Voting Rights Groups Call for Election Day Registration

Plaintiffs

Rutgers Constitutional Rights Clinic, ACLU-NJ, and New Jersey Appleseed File Appellate Brief Arguing State Cannot Justify 21-Day Registration Blackout Contact: Deborah Howlett, ACLU-NJ Communications Director, 973-854-1728 Allison Peltzman, ACLU-NJ Senior Communications Specialist, 973-854-1711 Professor Frank Askin, Rutgers School of Law-Newark, 973-353-3239 Renee Steinhagen, New Jersey Appleseed, 973-735-0523

Continue reading Voting Rights Groups Call for Election Day Registration