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Vitale, Greenwald: New Reforms Already Working To Decrease Number Of Kids Without Health Coverage

Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, speaks at a bill signing ceremony for his bill which would expand the availability and promotion of NJ FamilyCare and take the first step to ensuring affordable health care coverage for all New Jerseyans.

TRENTON – Responding to a recent study that reported more than a quarter-million New Jersey children lack health coverage, Senator Joseph Vitale and Assemblyman Louis Greenwald noted that recent reforms to the NJ FamilyCare program already are cutting the number of uninsured kids in the state.

According to the national health care advocacy group Families USA, an average of 267,000 New Jersey children were without health coverage annually between 2005 and 2007. The 12.1 percent uninsured rating ranked ninth-highest in the nation.

But the lawmakers noted the number of children without coverage has since dropped to 210,000, with a further reduction expected from reforms enacted this past July that make it easier for the uninsured to be enrolled in NJ FamilyCare. Among the changes is a presumptive eligibility for all newborns.

NJ FamilyCare covers approximately 170,000 children. During the past five months, 20,000 previously uninsured parents have enrolled.

“The bleak picture Families USA painted for New Jersey’s children is already outdated,” said Vitale (D-Middlesex). “In approximately five months, we have made great strides to slash the number of uninsured kids in New Jersey. If we can make this kind of progress in such a short amount of time, there is little doubt that these numbers will continue to drop as time goes on and we enact even more reforms.”

“The fact is we already are catching more kids in FamilyCare’s safety net than ever before,” said Greenwald (D-Camden). “The disturbingly high rate of uninsured children is exactly the reason why we enacted these reforms when we did and why health care reform will continue to be a top priority. In this economy, FamilyCare is truly the lifeline it was designed to be.”

Vitale and Greenwald were prime sponsors of NJ FamilyCare expansion legislation. It has been hailed as a first step toward ensuring affordable health care coverage for all New Jersey residents. The reforms also included the first aggressive educational campaign about the program in eight years, with a $1 million state investment fully matched with federal funds.