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Vitale Statement On Governor’s Family Care Announcement

PATERSON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, issued the following statement today on the Governor’s announcement of a partnership to use State income tax information to reach out to more than a quarter of a million New Jerseyans who qualify for – but are not enrolled in – the NJ FamilyCare health coverage program:

“Particularly as New Jersey families are dealing with the downturn in the economy, the affordability of quality health care is a major concern for folks struggling to make ends meet. Unfortunately, many believe that preventive care is simply out of their reach, and they ignore the health problems of themselves and their children until they have to visit the emergency room for care.

“As we know, that sort of health care model is expensive, inefficient and dangerous to the health of the people we’re trying to serve.

“Today we’re announcing renewed efforts to identify kids in need, and enroll them in the NJ FamilyCare health coverage program. Help is out there, and in many cases, is just a phone call away.

“NJ FamilyCare is a safety net for those working poor New Jerseyans who are ineligible for Medicaid, but do not receive, and cannot afford, health coverage from another source. The program is designed especially to make sure kids receive the care they need growing up, but in some cases, the program also covers uninsured parents – a policy that has proven to be the most effective way to get kids covered. Moving forward, I’m going to work with the Governor’s Administration to make sure we maintain the income threshold of 200 percent of the federal poverty level for uninsured parents, in order to continue the gains we’ve made in enrolling uninsured children.

“New Jersey’s leaders have a long history of fighting to make FamilyCare the best in the nation, ensuring maximum enrollment to capitalize on federal matching dollars through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). In recent years, we’ve simplified enrollment forms and expanded our outreach efforts. In fact, adding presumptive eligibility to New Jersey tax forms was part of the last bill we did to overhaul FamilyCare, which was signed into law last year by Governor Corzine.

“In today’s day and age, quality health coverage isn’t a luxury for families, but a fundamental right for all Americans. While federal lawmakers work on crafting a sustainable, affordable universal health care plan, it’s up to the individual states to make sure that those at the lowest ends of the income spectrum do not fall through the cracks.

“I applaud Governor Corzine and his administration for their continued commitment to accessible quality health care for New Jersey’s hardest-hit families. In these difficult economic times, access to health care is more important than ever. This latest effort will make sure that qualifying families know there is help available, and will ensure kids at all income levels get the care they need.”