New Law on New Jersey Hospital Discharge Planning
As an elder and disability law firm which engages in health care advocacy, our firm recognizes the importance of proper discharge planning. Now, the State of New Jersey has recognized the important role of a spouse, relative or a friend when a patient is discharged from a hospital. Last month, the New Jersey State Legislature passed the Caregiver’s Assistance Act, a bill that will require hospitals to provide designated caregivers with detailed instructions and training on how to carry out their responsibilities. Governor Christie is expected to sign the bill into law.
The legislation would let patients admitted to the hospital identify a caregiver who will be providing assistance when the patient is discharged. When the caregiver is identified, the hospital must include that person’s name, address and telephone number in the patient’s medical record, according to the bill. Within 24 hours after a decision is made to discharge a patient, the hospital would have to contact the caregiver and share a plan outlining what the patient needs in order to recover, according to the bill. Training via a live or recorded demonstration of the tasks involved, would be provided, as would an opportunity for the caregiver to ask questions.
The bill was drafted at the request of the AARP, which has made passing a caregiver law a priority nationwide. Only Oklahoma has a caregiver law currently in place.
The original version of the bill was amended by the State Senate to address liability and other legal issues, some at the request of the New Jersey Hospital Association. Hospitals could not be held liable “for the services rendered or not rendered by the caregiver,” according to one of the amendments. Hospitals would not be allowed to delay discharging a patient in order to comply with the law.
Also, people whom patients identify as their caregivers are not under any legal obligation to perform “after care” responsibilities. Caregivers would not be reimbursed for their services, according to the legislation’s amendments.
The caregiver law is an important step to ensure that proper discharge planning is done by empowering and educating caregivers how to best care for their loved ones.