Lesniak-Vitale Resolution Urging Governor To Support Federal Health Care Reform Approved In Committee

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 Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today by a vote of 6-3.

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 us that the federal health reform initiative will help shore up programs that people depend on, including access to care for the economically-disadvantaged and prescription drug programs for senior citizens,” said Senate President Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “Based on this admission from Governor Christie, we believe he should be doing everything he can to support the health care reforms, not working to knock them down in the name of the conservative right. The mixed messages we’re getting from the Governor’s Office could ultimately end up costing us federal aid when it comes time to apply for those funds.”

“Governor Christie can’t have it both ways – he’s either for increased federal assistance for health care programs like prescription drug benefits for seniors, or he’s against it,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “The Governor announced that he ‘found the money’ to restore funding for prescription drug programs through the federal health care reforms that were signed in March, but has left the door open to join in a lawsuit to overturn the reforms he himself identified as a funding source. New Jersey’s seniors have a right to know where Governor Christie really stands – with the Republicans in Congress who voted to increase prescription drug costs for our seniors, or with the Democrats who voted to protect our senior citizens from an increase in the cost of their prescription drugs.”

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.

“Federal health care reform will make access to care possible for more than one million New Jerseyans who don’t have the benefit of the same public employee health benefits enjoyed by Governor Christie, State legislators, cabinet members and the Governor’s staff,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the vice chair of the Senate health panel. “Many of these reforms have garnered support over the years from both Democrats and Republicans interested in improving access to care for people in need. Now that we finally have the promise of accessible care on the horizon, it’s up to leaders on both sides of the political spectrum to stand up against conservative political pressure and put people ahead of politics.”

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

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