Largest Hospital, Largest Health Insurance Company Form New Alliance

Lilo H. Stainton | July 17, 2019 | Health Care
Partnership between Bergen County facility and Horizon envisages increased access to wide range of services for thousands of residents

Gov. Phil Murphy, 4th from left, with officials from Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and Bergen County at yesterday's announcement
A massive Bergen County-owned hospital that once was focused primarily on behavioral health has taken another step toward expanding access to its growing continuum of care through a new partnership with New Jersey’s largest health insurance company.

Officials with Paramus-based Bergen New Bridge Medical Center announced the partnership with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield on Tuesday during an event at the facility attended by Gov. Phil Murphy, county leaders, hospital executives and insurance company representatives.

The agreement opens New Bridge services to thousands of additional Horizon members — including some 230,000 Bergen County residents — whose plans were not previously accepted by the hospital; Murphy said this is particularly important given that New Bridge offers addiction programs that can help fill critical treatment gaps. In the past, New Bridge had accepted only select Horizon plans, for limited services.

“Collaboration and integration of care is the gold standard for which all health providers strive,” Murphy said, according to prepared remarks. “This partnership will result in better community outreach and targeted community health initiatives, it will generate new ways to improve chronic disease management, and most importantly it will result in better outcomes for patients.”

Previously known as Bergen Regional, and before that Bergen Pines, the facility’s high rate of violent incidents, many involving police responses, prompted concerns among union leaders and state and local officials. The outcry led to management changes and, in 2017, the county transferred the operation and management of the hospital to Care Plus Bergen Inc, a company that includes a trio of experienced partners. In addition to changing the name, leaders pledged to create a “premier regional health care destination” with enhanced services in acute, specialty and long-term care, while maintaining its role as a destination for mental health and substance abuse services. The hospital has more than 1,000 beds, making it the largest in the state and one of the largest nationwide.

Today, the hospital operates a traditional emergency room, hosts a variety of surgical services, and offers outpatient programs in optometry, pain management, rheumatology and other specialties. It also has a partnership with Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, based in Newark, and runs a large psychiatry residency program.

What the community deserves

“Bergen New Bridge is committed to being the healthcare facility our community deserves and we are rapidly changing to meet its needs,” president and CEO Deborah Visconi said. “As we stand here today, Bergen New Bridge is a full-service hospital that provides 24/7 emergency, medical and long-term care; women’s health, cardiac, radiology, laboratory and rehabilitation services; as well as mental and behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment, and so much more.”

Half the hospital’s beds now are dedicated to long-term care for elderly residents or patients with complex medical conditions and more than 300 are reserved for those in need of psychological services; New Bridge also hosts the state’s largest detox program, with more than 80 beds. The facility also offers in-patient drug treatment, day-long programs and outpatient care for more than 15,000 people annually, according to its website, and has partnered with law enforcement officials to support a diversion program aimed at getting low-level, nonviolent drug offenders into treatment.

The agreement reflects the continuing investment by Bergen County to improve access to care for local residents, officials said. But the new deal covers all Garden State patients with commercial insurance plans from Horizon, not just those in Bergen County.

Bergen County Executive James Tedesco III said the expansion could be particularly beneficial to residents and Bergen County employees, who were not previously eligible for care at New Bridge through their Horizon plans.

New Bridge already accepted several other insurance plans for some or all services, including policies by Coventry, Emblem Health, Guardian, Humana, MagnaCare, Oscar Health, and QualCare, among others, in addition to benefit plans for veterans and active military members.

Currently, about 70 percent of insured patients treated at New Bridge are covered by Medicaid plans, including those administered through managed-care contracts with commercial insurance companies; the remaining 30 percent are insured by commercial plans made available through employers or on the individual marketplace, officials said.