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Vitale Says Additional Federal Aid Means Better Healthcare For More Children

TRENTON – Sen. Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex) said New Jersey’s efforts to enroll more children in NJ FamilyCare program has earned the state millions of dollars in federal money that will be used to provide better access to healthcare services to even more children.

As the sponsor of legislation to expand the FamilyCare rolls, Vitale said New Jersey is one of only nine states getting a performance bonus for increasing health insurance enrollment of children. New Jersey’s performance bonus amounts to $4.2 million.

“When you do the right thing, good things happen,” Sen. Vitale, chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, said. “The Corzine administration and the Legislature have been working hard to make sure we get as many children as we can enrolled in this vital program. Now we’re being recognized for that effort and rewarded with federal money that will be put to good use keeping kids healthy.”

Sen. Vitale, a long-time advocate on behalf of the uninsured, is the author of the New Jersey FamilyCare program, which insures more than 600,000 children and provides free or low-cost health coverage for income-eligible families. He said outreach efforts by the N.J. Department of Human Services to connect with the families of uninsured kids have helped increase participation in the program, leading to the performance bonus from the federal government.

Sen. Vitale sponsored legislation that added a check-off to the State income tax form to allow tax filers to indicate whether or not they had any uninsured dependents living in their homes.

“We knew there were many uninsured children in New Jersey who could benefit from the FamilyCare program if we could just get them enrolled,” Sen. Vitale said. “We’ve been able to use tax returns to reach out to families with children who lack health insurance and followed up with a simplified express enrollment form to get them into the program.”

The Division of Taxation forwards the information to the Department of Human Services, which mails them a FamilyCare Express Lane application. Assuming their income level remains the same, they can enroll their children in the New Jersey FamilyCare program with only a signature; if their tax situation changes, they would have to fill out the basic one-page Family Care application, which would be sent to them in a follow-up mailing.

“Prior to enactment of my bill, any information collected on income tax returns was completely off-limits to other State departments, even if it could benefit the families filing their taxes,” Sen. Vitale said. “We were able to maintain the confidentiality of tax information while still identifying families who need a helping hand when it comes to health insurance.”

New Jersey is one of only nine states – the other eight are Alabama, Alaska, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington – to qualify for the bonus.

“We often hear about how much money New Jersey sends to Washington, D.C., and how little we get in return,” Sen. Vitale said. “Here’s a situation where we’re getting additional federal aid for an important public need, and we’re getting it just for doing the right thing all along – providing better access to quality medical care for more children.”