TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph Vitale which would preserve FamilyCare coverage for working parents and unfreeze enrollment for new applicants was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Wednesday by a vote of 8-5 along party lines.
“With double digit unemployment and the effects of a national recession still hurting the Garden State, we cannot shirk our responsibility to working-class New Jersey families who need access to decent, affordable health care,” said Vitale, D-Middlesex, and one of the most vocal proponents of the FamilyCare program.
“We also cannot leave any money on the table, and with a nearly 2-to-1 federal match on New Jersey’s FamilyCare investment, the program generates more revenue for the State than it costs to fund. This bill continues to help New Jerseyans access appropriate medical care, rather than forcing them to forego medically-necessary treatment or face bankruptcy due to the high cost of care.”
The bill, S-2134, would make a supplemental appropriation of $24.6 million in state funds to the Department of Human Services in the FY 2011 Budget for the NJ FamilyCare program. The bill would also appropriate $45.7 million in federal matching funds to the Department for the same purpose. The funds appropriated through S-2134 would represent a complete restoration of funds cut in the Governor’s proposed FY 2011 Budget for new enrollment of parents with incomes between 134% and 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, or between $29,547 and $44,100 a year in income for a family of four.
“New Jersey’s working families have the same right to affordable, decent health care that the State Legislature, the Governor, his cabinet members and staff enjoy through the state’s health benefits plans,” said Vitale. “FamilyCare has been a vital part of the state’s health care safety net, and has made it possible for working-class people to afford health coverage. We need to continue our support of FamilyCare, especially as families are finding it more and more difficult to meet the high cost of health insurance in New Jersey.”
Vitale noted that providing health care coverage for parents under FamilyCare is a cost-effective solution. He said that without FamilyCare coverage, many would be forced to rely on emergency care at a higher cost to the State and with poorer patient outcomes.
“Without access to primary care through the FamilyCare program, people are going to wait until they can’t ignore their symptoms any longer, and then they’re going to go to our state’s emergency rooms for care,” said Vitale. “Study upon study has shown that providing accessible primary care is a far more cost-effective model, and creates better health care outcomes for the people receiving access. This isn’t just a matter of our moral responsibility as a state – it’s also about spending health care dollars smarter.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.