SENATE DEMOCRATS ACT ON WOMEN’S HEALTH CARE

Health Committee Approves Bills To Restore Funding For Family Planning Clinics And To Take Advantage Of Federal Medicaid Funds

TRENTON – Acting to expand access to critical health care services for women, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens’ Committee today 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-784, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Senator Linda R. Greenstein and Senator Paul Sarlo, and S-1203, sponsored by Senator Weinberg, would restore funding cut by Governor 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.

“Democrats have taken a stand in support of providing critical health care services for our residents. Unfortunately, the governor has failed to recognize the importance of ensuring access to care for women and families across the state,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “But we are not going to back down merely because he has taken the position that women’s health care is not a priority. Providing a modest amount of state funding would restore vital preventive health care services for women. At the same time, it would leverage $9 in federal funds for every $1 spent to help lower-income women who are in need of medical care. It’s in the best interest of the state and of our residents to restore funding and to utilize the federal option.”

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 decision to cut funding for women’s health care has been detrimental to women,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Middlesex and Mercer). “Clinics which offer basic services such as physicals, mammograms, prenatal counseling and gynecological exams have been forced to close their doors. Those that have been able to remain open have had to reduce their operating hours, limiting access to these facilities. Restoring this funding is the right thing to do for New Jersey’s women and families.”

The first bill, S-784, would provide $7.5 million in the FY14 budget for family planning services grants through the Department of Health. The bill specifies the funding could not be used for abortion procedures. The Medicaid bill (S-1203) 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.

“Restoring funding for family planning will provide vital health care services to women across the state, while bringing in matching funds from the federal government. From a budgetary standpoint and a health care perspective, this just makes sense,” said Senator Sarlo (D-Bergen). “Particularly given the current budget situation, we must use every opportunity available to leverage federal funds. The state cannot afford to leave millions of dollars on the table in Washington that could be used to provide women with essential health care services.”

S-784 was approved by a vote of 6-2-1; S-1203 was approved by a vote of 7-1-1. The bills now go to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.