TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Joseph Vitale providing Medicaid coverage for services to treat and prevent Zika virus infections and other health concerns associated with the virus cleared the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today.
S-2476 requires the Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services in the Department of Human Services to include within the Medicaid and NJ FamilyCare benefit packages for all recipients, consistent with federal requirements, coverage and reasonable reimbursement rates for medically appropriate Zika virus prevention and treatment measures, including medically prescribed mosquito repellents as well as family planning services including counseling and all forms of contraceptives. Furthermore, it would provide targeted case management services for children born with disabilities related to the Zika virus, while also providing physical therapy and other rehabilitative therapies for individuals recovering from Zika related disabilities.
“We have to be proactive in ensuring that residents are taking precautions to prevent Zika virus infections,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “It is also critical that in the event that Zika is contracted, we have the necessary health care coverage in place to treat the infection and other health care concerns. This is legislation that puts all of those pieces in place in our state, and ensures we are taking steps to protect New Jerseyans.”
Federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance to states on how they can use Medicaid services to prevent, detect, and respond to the Zika virus, including coverage of medically prescribed insect repellents, family planning services and supplies, and diagnostic services and treatment.
“Officials at the federal level have provided guidance, so we are utilizing that information and the resources we have at the state level to provide the best possible treatment to patients,” said Senator Vitale.
The Zika virus is an infectious disease most often transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, and which can also be transmitted by men to their sexual partners. The most common symptoms of Zika virus are mild flu-like symptoms, but Zika virus infection during pregnancy has been associated with serious birth defects of the brain such as microcephaly, and has also been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Outbreaks of the Zika virus have been reported in Africa, the South Pacific, and since 2015 in South and Central America. A report by The Star-Ledger showed that as of mid-August there were an estimated 100 cases of the Zika virus reported in New Jersey.
There is no vaccine available to prevent against Zika virus infection, and the best defense against the virus is mosquito control, avoiding mosquito bites, and contraception for women of childbearing age who do not wish to become pregnant.
Aedes mosquitoes that could transmit the virus are common in much of the U.S., including in New Jersey.
The bill cleared the committee 8-0; it will now head to the full Senate for further consideration.