TRENTON – A Senate Resolution sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Barbara Buono which would memorialize Congress to dedicate support for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today.
“This year, we dodged a bullet in New Jersey in terms of federal stop-gap funding for our efforts to provide health insurance coverage to uninsured children,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Health Committee. “However, we cannot rely on one-shot revenues and last-minute funding to continue to administer NJ FamilyCare and the other programs around the nation that rely on S-CHIP funding. The federal government must reauthorize S-CHIP, so that states can make plans to meet their obligation to the uninsured.”
The resolution, SCR-120, would call on Congress to reauthorize the federal S-CHIP program, which was enacted in 1997 to support state efforts to provide health care access for uninsured children. The original dedication of $40 billion over 10 years will run dry in September of this year, causing projected shortfalls in state programs, including New Jersey FamilyCare, the Garden State’s S-CHIP program. While Congress authorized an expenditure for this year to fill the gap, programs across the nation could lose millions in funding next year, forcing many to cut enrollees or provide fewer benefits to those covered.
“It would be disastrous for the federal government to pull S-CHIP funding, particularly when health care costs are rapidly climbing and families cannot afford basic health insurance,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex, a member of the Senate Health panel. “This year’s appropriation bought us some time, but our federal representatives need to recognize that failure to reauthorize this vital program means thousands, if not millions of kids across the country will be dropped from S-CHIP. Without federal support, states cannot afford to continue health coverage for those who need us most.”
Senator Vitale added that annual appropriations do not give states enough security to plan for the future of programs intended to help the uninsured.
“I’ve been fighting to provide health care access to the uninsured for almost my entire legislative career,” said Senator Vitale, who authored the law establishing NJ FamilyCare in 1998. “I can tell you that progress isn’t made through annual appropriations, but long-term planning and strategy. By taking a year-to-year approach for funding programs for the uninsured, the best we can ever hope for is the status quo, as opposed to enrolling new members and making an impact on the number of insured people in New Jersey.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration. Similar legislation was approved by the Assembly by a vote of 75-4 in March.