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Lesniak-Vitale Resolution Urging Governor To Support Federal Health Care Reform Advances

Lawmakers Say Governor’s Flirtations with National Ultra-Conservative Movement Could Cost State Health Care Dollars for Senior Assistance Programs

TRENTON – A resolution sponsored by Senators Raymond Lesniak and Joseph Vitale, and co-sponsored by ten Senators including Senate President Stephen Sweeney, which urges Governor Christie not to join in a lawsuit to block federal health care reform, was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 21-16.

Citing Governor Christie’s recent remarks on the public television call-in-show, “Christie: On the Line,” that he is considering joining in the lawsuit to overturn the recently-enacted federal health care reform law, the lawmakers said that the Governor is putting conservative ideology ahead of sound public policy and may jeopardize increased funding for State health care programs.

“The Governor has told seniors to expect federal funding to restore needed prescription drug assistance,” said Senate President Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “Instead of considering a legal challenge to the law enabling additional federal funds, the Governor should stand up for the people who would benefit from federal health reforms. You can’t plan for a funding bump from a law you’re working to overturn, and the Governor’s contradictory messages could jeopardize our chances of successfully pursuing additional federal support.”

“Governor Christie can’t have it both ways,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “Either you support additional funding from the federal government – which he has identified as restoration funds for senior prescription drug programs – or you oppose additional funding. Either way, the people of New Jersey, particularly the seniors who depend on the State’s prescription drug programs, deserve to know exactly where the Governor stands on federal health care reform.”

The resolution, SCR-108, would call on the Governor not to join in any lawsuit seeking to block the provisions of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” which was signed into law by President Obama in March. The act contains a number of health-related provisions which will take effect over the next four years, including expanding Medicaid eligibility, subsidizing insurance premiums, providing incentives for businesses to offer health care benefits to their employees, prohibiting denial of coverage or claims based on pre-existing conditions, establishing health insurance exchanges to allow consumers to get the coverage that meets their needs at the best price possible, and supporting medical research to improve patient outcomes, cure diseases, and lower overall healthcare costs.

Since it was signed, a coalition of radical conservatives, many associated with the Tea Party movement, have urged public figures across the country to sign on to a lawsuit seeking to overturn the new law. To date, 18 states – 14 of which are led by Republican governors – have signed on to the legal challenge. The opponents claim that the act violates state sovereignty and puts an unfair burden on state governments.

“The reforms that were signed into law by President Obama in March will mean that the more than one million uninsured New Jerseyans will have access to needed, quality health care,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the vice chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “These are folks who don’t have the luxury of the same publicly-funded health insurance plans enjoyed by legislators, the Governor, his cabinet members and staff. Access to decent, affordable health care is a fundamental right, not a luxury, and Governor Christie should support efforts at the federal level to make medical care more accessible for those New Jerseyans without health insurance.”

The resolution is sponsored by Senators Lesniak and Vitale, and is co-sponsored by ten other Senate Democrats, including Senate President Sweeney, Senate Health Committee Chairwoman Loretta Weinberg and Majority Leader Barbara Buono. The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

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