🏥 NJ hospital ER wait times among longest in U.S.

🏥 Average wait time ranked among worst 10 in nation

🏥 Medicaid changes, mental health demand could be factors

Ever waited in a hospital emergency room for what seemed like forever?

Turns out, New Jersey ranks among the top 10 states with the longest ER wait times, but misses the top five, according to recent research.


(NJ ranks among ER wait times)

Growing demand for mental health services

A spokesperson with the New Jersey Hospital Association said that there were some important factors to consider when looking at the wait times listed below.

Kerry McKean Kelly said New Jersey hospital ERs serve about 3 million people annually,.

Kelly said that since the height of COVID-19, the NJHA has seen a 30% increase in the demand for mental health services at ERs for issues like depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

That spike in demand has exceeded community resources, which could cause an overflow of patients to seek help at hospitals, according to Kelly.

gorodenkoff GettyImages
gorodenkoff GettyImages

Cold and flu season? NJ wait times will spike

Another question Kelly had in viewing NJ’s bleak ranking for ER wait times, was when was the data collected.

Last fall, there was a trifecta of COVID, flu and respiratory syncytial virus outbreaks that slammed NJ hospitals.

RVS activity has been on its way up for the 2023-2024 season but there are new options available this year for those considered as most at-risk, including a new vaccine for those 60 and older.

Read More: RSV season hits NJ — immunization is available for certain groups

Any time such seasonal outbreaks occur, it’s going to take longer to be seen in the emergency department.

There also has been an uptick in patients referred to hospitals by clinics or primary care physicians as primary care offices are among those facing staffing challenges, Kelly said.

Medicaid NJ Family Care (Canva, NJ.gov)
Medicaid NJ Family Care (Canva, NJ.gov)

‘Medicaid unwinding’ is pushing thousands in NJ from coverage

Another potential factor in higher emergency department wait times this year: the “Medicaid unwinding” that began months ago.

So far, about 130,000 recipients in NJ have lost their coverage, as they no longer qualify for the federal medical program, under reexamined eligibility requirements, Kelly said.

Starting in March 2020 and lasting about three years, NJ FamilyCare/Medicaid followed special rules related to the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.

Those rules allowed most NJ FamilyCare/Medicaid members to keep their health coverage, even if they no longer qualified – for example, if their income was too high.

Congress then passed legislation that said state Medicaid programs had to go back to normal federal rules as of April 1.

The 2023 guidelines for an adult to qualify for NJ Familycare entail total family income being at or below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level.

For a single person, that is $1,677 a month; for a family of four, that is $3,450 a month.

Female patient sitting on gurney in hospital gown, low section
Siri Stafford ThinkStock

Average ER wait times in NJ

In NJ, the average ER wait time amounted to just under three hours — or 173 minutes, according to autoinsurance.org.

A slightly higher average — three hours, 11 minutes — was clocked in a separate analysis shared by personal injury attorneys known as “Injured in Florida.

In both cases, NJ ranked seventh in the nation, while Maryland had the longest average ER wait time — just about an hour longer than NJ.

As for states with the quickest ER wait times — North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska all clocked in at two hours or less, according to the same data.

Population and population density in all three states is vastly lower than NJ (ND and SD each have less than 1 million residents), among potential factors in the rankings.

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