Senate Committee Advances Efforts To Reverse Christie Cuts To Women’s Health Care Services

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TRENTON – The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved two bills that would restore cuts to family planning clinics and extend Medicaid coverage for women by leveraging federal matching funds. The bills, S-2824, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, and S-2825, sponsored by Weinberg and Senator Linda R. Greenstein, would restore funding vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie for health clinics that provide a wide range of services for women and would have the state take advantage of federal funding that would provide a nine-to-one match in Medicaid support for women’s health care.

“This is long overdue,” said Weinberg. “Women’s health care has been shortchanged and neglected by the governor for more than three years. A modest amount of state funding would restore crucial health care for women and would generate significant federal funds that would go a long way in helping lower-income women in need of medical care. Women are entitled to reproductive health care.”

In the FY 2011 budget the governor eliminated $7.5 million in grants for family planning services. Due to the cuts, Planned Parenthood was forced to close six women’s health clinics. The grants provide information and counseling on reproductive choices, physicals, cancer screenings, pregnancy testing, the diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, prenatal counseling and substance abuse programs, among other important health services that many women can’t afford or are unable to access. In 2011, 2012, and 2013 the governor and Republicans in the Legislature blocked repeated attempts by the Democratic Legislature to restore these funds.

“The Governor’s defunding of women’s health care has had serious effects on women throughout the state,” said Greenstein. “Clinics where many of the state’s most needy women receive basic health care services such as mammograms, gynecological exams and blood pressure screenings have had to shutter their doors and those clinics that have been able to remain open have had to reduce their operating hours, limiting low-income women’s access to these facilities. Restoring this funding is the right thing to do for New Jersey’s women and families.”

The Medicaid bill would provide coverage for family planning services to individuals with income up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. If the state were to take advantage of this opportunity, New Jersey would receive at least nine dollars in federal reimbursement for every additional one dollar it spends. The lack of funding for this option “leaves a lot of money on the table that could and should be used to provide vital health care services,” Weinberg said.

The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.

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