Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
June 17, 1999
Good morning Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Judiciary Committee. It is an honor to appear before you today.
When Governor Whitman nominated me to become Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, she entrusted me with the enormous responsibility to safeguard the public health of all New Jersey residents.
She presented me with the opportunity to complete the many creative initiatives she led, such as anti-tobacco use and senior services programs for 1.4 million seniors -- initiatives that are now thriving due to my able predecessor Len Fishman and a strong professional staff. The governor gave me the privilege to lead the department into the 21st century.
I would like to share with you some of my guiding principles, my personal style, and my vision of the challenges during the remainder of the Governor's term.
Trained as a public health practitioner, attorney and business person, I manage by applying a consistent set of public policy principles to regulatory and statutory analysis.
By public policy principles, I mean balancing equitable access to care, responsible cost management, continuous quality improvement and innovative programming.
You can expect me to strive to listen carefully and respectfully to all parties affected by an issue. To insist on prompt, pragmatic solutions. To act decisively. To apply laws and regulations evenhandedly, and to advocate vigorously for the people we serve and the professionals we lead.
I have 25 years experience in public and private health and healthcare finance -- including service as Deputy Commissioner of the then Department of Health in the mid- eighties. I've had the rare privilege to create new programs and policies to alleviate some of today's most serious health problems.
I've learned much from this work, and I pledge my best efforts to apply what I've learned to address New Jersey's healthcare problems.
As you know, the Department of Health and Senior Services is a $2.3 billion agency with more than 1,900 employees.
Our several hundred grant programs and regulations affect a multibillion dollar healthcare system of hospitals, long-term care facilities, managed care companies, community health centers, addiction and HIV programs, among others.
New Jersey's demographics, the financial environment of healthcare, and the growing scientific knowledge about effective prevention, point to four areas where we need to focus our attention. They are: Tobacco use, racial disparity in health care access and outcome, affordability of care and the financial health of our healthcare institutions, and the need for a continuum of choices in long-term care for seniors.
Tobacco use is responsible for more than 13,000 deaths in our state each year. More adolescents and college-age kids are smoking.
We have a rare opportunity to reverse this dangerous trend, thanks to the Governor's and Legislature's leadership in devoting a reasonable portion of the tobacco settlement money to anti-tobacco use, and the increased scientific knowledge about how to change social norms and individual behavior regarding tobacco.
We've now completed the draft of a strategic anti- tobacco use plan. We are ready to implement it.
Racial disparity in health access and outcomes is a national dilemma. We are working to eliminate disparity here, particularly in the important areas of infant mortality and cancer.
Last month we launched our Black Infant-Better Survival campaign, which focuses attention on the problem of black infant mortality and directs African-American mothers-to-be to care.
I understand that the financial status of our healthcare institutions and the friction between managed care organizations and health care providers are critical issues.
In my view, we need to address both revenue and expense issues, establish clear rules affecting managed care organizations and enforce them. For example, this week we acted on my promise to vigorously enforce complaints about slow pay and denials by issuing penalty notices to two managed care companies.
We also have to be willing to vigorously advocate for New Jersey's fair share of federal funding with the many agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Congress.
I am proud to be part of a Department that is creating a continuum of long-term care choices for seniors and their families. July 1st marks the third anniversary of the merging of Senior Services with the Department of Health. We continue to build programs that try to meet the diverse and changing needs of seniors.
And I appreciate your support on senior issues, especially legislative involvement in the New Jersey Advisory Council on Elder Care.
As we manage today's challenges, I'm also looking to the future. There are so many important areas to address. These include efforts to improve our public health infrastructure, set the long-term agenda for the state's role relative to health care finance and affordable insurance, complete a seamless system of caring for seniors, and improve the availability of addiction services for adolescents.
Already, I've initiated the drafting of a comprehensive public health cancer control strategic plan.
We also need to address emergent macro issues, including the possible threat of bioterrorism, and the more likely threat of an influenza pandemic.
I've listed the challenges we are tackling now and those before us. But I want end where I began. It is truly a privilege, an honor and a challenge to be called to serve.
I consider you and your legislative colleagues, partners in protecting the public's health.
I am comfortable and confident that Governor Whitman's and your trust in me will be earned and returned in greater measure for the good of the people of our state.
I would be happy to answer any questions.