Vitale-Buono Familycare Bill Becomes Law

HAMILTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Barbara Buono which would overhaul the State’s FamilyCare health insurance program for the working poor, to provide accessible, quality health care to all New Jerseyans was signed into law today by Governor Codey.

“Health care is not a privilege — it is a basic right that every New Jersey family should be entitled to, regardless of their financial status,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “For years, New Jersey FamilyCare offered affordable or no-cost health insurance to working families, but the program was scaled back during recent budget shortfalls. This new law would restore FamilyCare, and ensure that no one in New Jersey will ever again have to go without quality, long-term health care because of their economic circumstances.”

“Too many families rely on the emergency room as their primary means of health care when it should only be used as a last resort,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “Through FamilyCare, we will provide New Jersey’s working poor with the access they need to preventive care, stemming the need for last-minute visits to the ER. It is our hope that not only will this make New Jersey a healthier place to live and improve the lives of those currently uninsured, but also reduce health care costs for the State by controlling the ballooning needs of charity care programs in our hospitals.”

The bill, S-2236, known as the “Family Health Care Coverage Act,” would restructure New Jersey’s current FamilyCare and KidCare programs into a revamped FamilyCare system within the State Department of Human Services. The new program would provide subsidized health insurance coverage for children under 19 years of age, as well as their parents and childless adults on an incremental basis. The bill also expands the eligibility for the State’s Medicaid program to provide for greater coverage of State residents with matching federal funds.

“When parents were removed from the FamilyCare program, we saw a sharp decline in the number of children who were being enrolled,” said Senator Vitale. “Under the revised FamilyCare plan, parents and other childless adults will be introduced, on an incremental basis, with the neediest receiving access first. Through enrollment of parents, we will be able to reach the approximately 200,000 children who are currently not enrolled in FamilyCare, despite being eligible for assistance with their health care costs.”

The bill also sets up a streamlined enrollment process for the FamilyCare and Medicaid programs, including online enrollment, and provides for a buy-in process for families over the income threshold. The sponsors noted that increasing enrollment in these health insurance programs for the working poor would put an emphasis on preventive care, such as regular doctor checkups, over episodic care, such as emergency room visits, which, along with the obvious health benefits of preventive care, would help to stabilize costs in other State health compensation programs.

The bill was approved by both houses of the Legislature in June.

CLICK HERE TO READ A STATEMENT BY SENATOR VITALE ON TODAY’S BILL SIGNING

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO AUDIO FROM TODAY’S BILL SIGNING

CLICK HERE VIEW PHOTOS FROM TODAY’S BILL SIGNING

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