A new report says hospitals in New Jersey collectively pour more than $23 billion into the state's economy annually.

The New Jersey Hospital Association's Kerry McKean-Kelly says that includes employment for thousands of people.

"Health care is such a critical component of the New Jersey economy.

She says the 144,000 people in Jersey employed by hospitals pay almost a half-billion dollars in income taxes, and the hospitals themselves buy more than $3 billion worth of goods and services.

"When hospitals are active and are out there in the community, taking care of people, providing health care, it has a ripple effect all across our state."

And McKean-Kelly says the report also notes the member hospitals' contribution to treating those who cannot afford to pay for treatment.

"There is still a need to take care of the people who rely on the health care safety net. Despite the advances of insuring more people, there is still a significant population out there that does not have insurance. New Jersey hospitals take care of those individuals. Those total hospital visits reach about $1.4 million in any given year."

The report also notes health care will become more critical in New Jersey as the baby boomer population continues to age.

"Even as acute care within a hospital setting is shrinking, because we are trying to provide more care out in the community, there is no denying the fact that New Jersey's population is aging, and they will continue to need these health care services."

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 1015.

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