Senate Health Committee Chair Says Changes Could Jeopardize Care for Poor
TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, and a leading advocate in the Legislature for affordable health care for those in need of it, issued the following statement regarding a measure passed by the U.S. Senate last week which would allow States to charge more for Medicaid services for low-income families and individuals:
“Last week’s decision by the federal government to balance Federal and State budgets on the backs of mostly lower-income workers and children is completely wrongheaded, and reflects this administration’s ongoing displaced priorities in spending billions to prolong a war thousands of miles away, but neglecting those suffering here at home.
“The rationale given by the Congressional Budget Office is even more offensive and callous, in that they wrote that States would save money by charging more for Medicaid services because poor consumers would simply opt not to get treated.
“Medicaid exists as a safety net for those among us who do not earn enough to afford health insurance on their own, whose employers may not offer it, many who earn less than $20,000 a year, and live each day going from paycheck to paycheck. It was instituted because government could not stand idly by while those in the lowest income brackets withered and died from preventable diseases.
“Also, New Jersey would still have to pay the costs of unaffordable health care, in the State’s charity care system of reimbursing hospitals for uninsured health care cases. By encouraging patients to forego regular checkups, we are feeding into a system where preventive medicine is ignored for more costly episodic care, when their ailments become too severe not to ignore. By shifting to an episodic care model, New Jersey stands to spend more money, not save it.
“I sincerely hope that Governor-elect Jon Corzine and his administration have a health care agenda that does not penalize our working poor families. He voted against the bill in the U.S. Senate, and that’s a good sign, but it’s definitely going to be tough, with federal mandates coming down to punish the poor for governments’ excessive spending.
“We need to continue responsible programs that meet the most basic needs of our constituents. Unfortunately, President Bush and federal Republican leaders haven’t quite got the memo on what a government is really for.”