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 today by a vote of 23-17.
“New Jersey FamilyCare is a vital and necessary component in our State’s health care safety net,” said Vitale, D-Middlesex, and one of the most vocal proponents of the FamilyCare program. “Rather than force uninsured New Jerseyans into emergency room care, we need to continue our support for FamilyCare health coverage for those in need. This is about government’s fundamental responsibilities to the people it represents, and I hope the Governor does the right thing and restores this funding.”
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.
“Decent, affordable health care should be a right for all people, not a luxury only enjoyed by those lucky enough to get employer-paid health benefits – including the Governor, the State Legislature, and other folks on the public payroll,” said Vitale. “There’s simply no reason why we would deny uninsured New Jerseyans the same benefits we enjoy as enrollees in the state Health Benefits Plan, particularly when funding for the program comes largely from the federal government. This is a matter of fairness for folks who may be one medical bill away from bankruptcy, or are denying themselves life-saving care and medication because they simply cannot afford it.”
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.
“Fully funding NJ FamilyCare is as much about smart budgeting as it is about socially-responsible budgeting,” said Vitale. “The emergency care model under New Jersey’s charity care system is more expensive and does not produce the same level of patient outcomes that regular preventive health care does. Funding FamilyCare ensures that New Jerseyans get access to the care they need, when they need it, but it also ensures that the date will invest our limited health care dollars in programs that are proven to work in creating healthier New Jersey residents.”
The bill must also be passed by the Assembly and signed into law by the governor.