TRENTON – Acting to expand access to critical health care services for women, the Senate 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 eliminated 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. The action taken on the legislation, supplementing the FY2014 budget, is in addition to the restoration of $7.45 million for family planning in the proposed FY2015 state budget.
“Democrats are united in support of providing critical health care services for our residents. Unfortunately, for the last four years the governor has failed to recognize the importance of providing access to care for women and families across the state. But we are not going to back down merely because he has taken the position that women’s health care is not a priority,” said Senator Weinberg. “Our actions today would reverse the Christie Administration’s elimination of this funding and provide additional funding through a generous 9-to-1 match from the federal government. This funding is critical, since past cuts have led to the closure of family planning clinics and to a reduction in hours at facilities in the state.”
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 proven detrimental to women,” said Senator Greenstein. “Restoring this funding will better ensure that our residents are able to access basic services such as physicals, mammograms, prenatal counseling and gynecological exams at clinics in their communities. This is the right thing to do for New Jersey’s women and families.”
The first bill, S-784, would restore $7.5 million in the state 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 leveraging $9 in matching funds from the federal government for every $1 spent. From both a fiscal standpoint and a health care perspective, this just makes sense,” said Senator Sarlo. “Especially given the state’s economic condition, we have to use every opportunity available to the state to attract 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.”
S784 was approved in the Senate by a vote of 25-13. S1203 was approved by a vote of 48-29-0 in the Assembly; and by a vote of 27-7 in the Senate.