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Vitale Statement On SCHIP Hearing

Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, speaks to reporters after a news conference on the Statehouse steps on his efforts to limit charitable immunity in cases when the charity acts negligently in protecting children from sexual abuse.

DUMONT – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, issued the following statement today regarding the Committee’s hearing on the federal State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and President Bush’s recent veto of legislation reauthorizing federal funding for uninsured children:

“Today, members from both sides of the political aisle came together and said in one clear, bipartisan voice that the federal SCHIP program, which helps New Jersey meet its obligation to uninsured children, must be reauthorized and coverage of uninsured kids must be expanded.

“President Bush’s abandonment of uninsured, working poor families is absolutely unconscionable, and it’s up to Congress to override the presidential veto and stand up for the uninsured.

“As much as this issue has become politically charged around the nation, New Jersey lawmakers recognize that the lack of health insurance affects both Democrats and Republicans alike. The NJ FamilyCare program provides coverage for more than 200,000 people, but our efforts are still dwarfed by the nearly 1.3 million who remain uninsured in the Garden State. We want to be able to do more for those in need, but without backing federal funds, it might become impossible just to retain the status quo.

“What we understand on the State level, which federal naysayers seem unable to grasp, is that without this vital safety net, New Jersey’s health care costs will skyrocket, and so many children who need primary care will have to do without. I know that New Jersey remains committed to providing care for those who need it most, but with the expanding costs of health care, and mandated budget expenditures, we will have to drastically alter this critical care program, and cut many from the rolls of FamilyCare.

“This Thursday, Congress will vote on whether or not to override the President’s bad judgment when it comes to SCHIP. I hope that state lawmakers around the country are holding hearings such as these, to let their federal representatives know that a vast majority of the United States citizens support reauthorization and expansion of SCHIP funds.

“We need Congress to stand up for their constituents, and protect a health care program for the uninsured which has been instrumental in ensuring quality care for working poor kids in America. This Thursday, we will see if the US Senate and House of Representatives can fill the leadership void left by the President when it comes to health care for those in need.”