Vitale Phase 1 Health Care Reform Bill Approved By Budget Committee

Bill Would Expand NJ FamilyCare, Set Stage for Affordable Health Care for All New Jerseyans

TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, the author of a health care reform plan to make health coverage affordable for all New Jersey residents issued the following statement regarding the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee’s unanimous approval of the first phase of his plan, which would expand eligibility and outreach for NJ FamilyCare and enact market-level reforms, with an eye towards affordability for policy holders, on the individual and small group health insurance markets:

“Today’s Budget Committee approval was a strong statement on the feasibility of transformational health care reform in the State of New Jersey. At a time when the Budget Committee is grappling with a substantial fiscal shortfall in State finances, the fact that Committee members would lend their support to this measure speaks volumes on the priorities we hold dear in the Garden State.

“Affordable health care is not a privilege for the wealthy, but a right for all New Jersey residents at all ages and income levels. No one in the State should be put in a position where they have to forego medical treatment because it’s too expensive. But for many people living in New Jersey – people who are above the federal poverty line but still struggle to live paycheck to paycheck – quality health care is out of their reach.

“New Jersey has an obligation to the 1.3 million people in this State who do not have health insurance and are one catastrophic illness or injury away from bankruptcy. We recognize our obligation through programs like charity care and NJ FamilyCare which cater to uninsured State residents. However, we need to make the most of our State’s health care investment, and the current system does not offer the best way to spend our State’s health care dollars.

“The bottom line is that we get better medical outcomes cheaper by supporting preventive care over episodic care. Right now, we’re spending money to spend people to the emergency room, as opposed to allowing those same people to get regular medical check-ups which cost less and ensure healthier patients.

“When people are able to walk into a doctor’s office without having to worry that they won’t be able to afford food or rent because they’re taking care of health care needs, that’s when we will have truly met our State’s obligation to the uninsured. We need to do a better job in how we commit our State’s limited health care resources, and we need to ensure that health care is affordable to those in need. This bill would establish a better model, and put us on the right track for affordable health care for all State residents.”

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