TRENTON – The Senate today approved two bills sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg that would restore state funds for family planning centers and extend Medicaid coverage of family planning services to more women by leveraging federal matching funds.
The first bill, S-3103, would restore $7.5 million in funding cut by Governor Christie for family planning clinics that provide a wide range of services for women. The second bill, S-3104, would provide Medicaid coverage for family planning services to individuals with income up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This expansion would entitle New Jersey to nine dollars in federal reimbursement for every additional dollar the State spends for family planning services provided through the Medicaid program.
“Family planning and preventive health services are part of the basic health care that all residents deserve, regardless of their financial circumstances. Investing in family planning services not only provides women and families with more control over their health, it is also smart fiscal policy for the state,” said Senator Weinberg. “We know that preventive health care saves considerable costs in the long-term. In addition, it saves lives.”
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 would 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 otherwise unable to access. The governor and Republicans in the Legislature have blocked repeated attempts by the Democratic Legislature to restore these funds.
“While the governor may have once claimed this issue was about dollars and cents, the truth was made crystal clear when he recently boasted of vetoing family planning funding as a way to promote his conservative credentials,” said Senator Weinberg. “This issue should not be about a national agenda. For New Jersey families, this is about their health and their lives. A modest amount of state funding would restore crucial health care services for women and would generate significant federal funds that would go a long way in helping lower-income women in need of medical care.”
Extending Medicaid eligibility to non-pregnant women with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level – the same threshold used for pregnant women – would provide increased access to family planning services and address substantial disparities and coverage gaps for New Jersey residents.
“If we fail to extend Medicaid coverage for family planning services to more of our residents, we will be leaving critical health care dollars on the table that could be used for cancer screenings, birth control, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and more. This makes no sense,” said Senator Weinberg. “I urge the governor to sign this legislation and to finally do what is right for New Jersey. If he refuses, he again will be putting the health of women and families at risk.”
S3103 was approved by a vote of 26-12; S3104 was approved by a vote of 29-6.