TRENTON – The state Senate approved a bill to restore
nearly $7.5 million in cuts in the Governor’s proposed FY 2011 Budget for women’s health and family planning services, and would require the State to apply to the federal government for a Medicaid expansion to make family planning services available to more low-income individuals, by a veto-proof majority of 30-10.
“The funding in question provide cancer and gynecological screening to women without health insurance, helping to direct many into treatment before it’s too late,” said Senator Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, and vice chair of the Senate health panel. “This funding goes to pay for services to women who’ve been the victims of sexual assault, protecting them from further assault and abuse. At the end of the day, we simply have a responsibility as a society to fund these programs, and ensure that women can access the health care services they need, regardless of their insurance status or personal finances.”
The bill, S-2139, would restore the $7.5 million in grants to organizations providing family planning services and women’s health care in New Jersey that was cut from the Governor’s proposed FY 2011 Budget. The cuts would restrict access to basic reproductive health for women across the state, including contraception, pregnancy detection, diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, routine gynecological and cancer screening, and other health services, including prenatal and postpartum care, menopausal services and infertility testing. The funds in question would not be used to cover abortions, according to the bill’s sponsors.
Supporters of the bill point out that it is cost-neutral because an amendment to the bill identifies surplus funds in the State Employees’ Prescription Drug Program. In the Governor’s FY 2011 proposed budget, he projected that the program would grow by ten percent, while the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services has recently determined the projected growth to be around four percent. According to Vitale, the amended bill would tap four percent of the Governor’s projected funding for the prescription program, leaving enough funding to meet the prescription program’s needs.
In addition to restoring the $7.5 million cuts to family planning services, the bill would require the state to apply for an expansion of Medicaid coverage, to allow women between 134 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty level – or earning between $29,547 and $44,100 a year in income – to receive family planning services under the Medicaid program. Recently enacted federal health care reform law created a state option to expand Medicaid services for individuals up to 200 percent of the poverty level, and that New Jersey would receive $9 in federal reimbursement for every additional $1 the state spends for family planning services through the state’s Medicaid program.
“When you consider the generous federal match for Medicaid services, funding these programs makes fiscal sense,” said Vitale. “We’re in the midst of very difficult economic times, and we cannot afford to leave any money on the table when it comes to federal assistance for health care services for people in need. I don’t think we’re in any position as a State to turn away federal funding, and by tapping into a budget-neutral revenue source, we can provide more than enough funding to help women access health care.”
The bill must also pass in the Assembly before going to the Governor to be signed into law.