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Health Committee Statements From Hearing In Paterson On Access To Health Care For Uninsured Children

Senator Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, an advocate for programs affecting families dealing with autism, speaks during a visit to a Bergen County autism facility run by the Alpine Learning Group, in connection with World Autism Day on April 2.

Senate Democrats Seek Ways to Improve Enrollment in FamilyCare, Medicaid, Get Kids into Programs that Provide Health Care Access

TRENTON – The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee met today at East Side High School in Paterson to hear testimony about ways to improve enrollment in New Jersey’s health care safety net programs, including New Jersey FamilyCare and Medicaid, following a recent study by the Robert Wood Johnson foundation and The Urban Institute into the number of kids without health insurance throughout New Jersey.

With 9.5 percent of children lacking health insurance as of 2008, many of which qualify for publicly-subsidized health care, Paterson ranks second in the State behind Newark for uninsured kids.

Below are comments from the Senators who were in attendance at today’s hearing:

Health Committee Chair, Senator Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen –

“Our thanks go out to the students, teachers and staff at East Side High School in Paterson for their hospitality in hosting this important Health Committee Hearing.

“New Jersey has been a national leader in providing health care access to children who would otherwise go without. Our commitment and innovation in the realm of public health care access has been the envy of the country, and through our efforts, millions of people have received access to care.

“However, for all the progress in New Jersey’s efforts to provide health care, the job is only half-done.

“As long as children continue to go without health care access, and as long as qualifying children aren’t being enrolled in programs designed to help them grow into healthy, productive adults, we cannot rest on past successes. We have to continue to improve our outreach to people in need, and we have to maintain our investment in health care safety net programs, particularly at a time when more and more New Jerseyans are facing unemployment and a scaling back in employee benefits.

“This is a matter of meeting New Jersey’s most sacred responsibility – to give children a chance at a brighter future, by ensuring they receive access to pediatric health care services they need to grow up healthy. It’s a responsibility we cannot ignore.”

Health Committee Vice Chair, Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex –

“One of the biggest challenges in New Jersey’s health care access programs is to get eligible families enrolled and keep them enrolled. For all the good that our State’s investment in health care does, and for all the advances we’ve made in these programs, they do little good if kids can’t get access to the health care services they need to be healthy.

“Not only is providing health care access to kids in need the humane thing to do, but it also makes fiscal sense. In New Jersey, we’ve made a commitment to make health care accessible and affordable for all people, regardless of their age, gender or ability to pay. If kids don’t have access to affordable primary care, they’ll go to the emergency room when their symptoms have become too severe to ignore. The end result is reduced patient outcomes at a higher cost to the State of New Jersey.”

“We cannot be satisfied when nearly 1 in 10 students in Paterson is without health care access. We need to do a better job in Paterson, in Newark, and across the State to connect kids with health care access programs intended to give them the resources needed to grow up into healthy, productive adults.”

Senator John A. Girgenti, D-Passaic and Bergen –

“I’d like to thank the Health Committee for coming to Paterson today to shine a light on the issue of the lack of health care access in the Garden State. In Paterson and communities like it around New Jersey, the lack of adequate health care coverage has become a public policy epidemic. We can and we should do a better job of enrolling eligible kids in the health care safety net programs.

“When New Jersey first established NJ FamilyCare to provide subsidized health care access to families in need, I was proud to be a co-sponsor of the legislation because I recognize that health care coverage is important to developing bodies and developing minds. While FamilyCare has been a boon to families who’ve taken advantage, unless we do a better job reaching out to eligible families who are not enrolled, we’re not fulfilling the promise of the program.

“It’s long past time for New Jersey to look at ways to increase enrollment in FamilyCare, Medicaid and other programs designed to provide basic necessities for people in greatest need in my home district and throughout the Garden State.”

Senator Bob Gordon, D-Bergen –

“I believe today’s hearing was a productive discussion about ways to put our FamilyCare dollars to the most effective use. It’s not enough to provide access to care, but we have to get out in the communities where public health care coverage programs will do the most good, and get eligible families enrolled.

“Health care coverage doesn’t do anyone any good if people don’t know about their options. New Jersey has to expand our identification, outreach and enrollment of families who can benefit from NJ FamilyCare, Medicaid, or any number of programs designed to provide basic services to the economically disadvantaged. We also have to bring qualified doctors and health care professionals into medically-underserved communities, and expand our capability to meet the health care needs of our residents.

“At the end of the day, our State’s FamilyCare program cannot be viewed as a success story as long as so many children who are eligible for services remain unenrolled and uninsured. But I remain confident that we will do a better job in providing kids with access to decent, affordable health care moving forward.”