Senator Testifies that State Efforts to Cover Uninsured Cannot Happen Without Fed Support
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, issued the following statement today after testifying before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health, on the need for continued federal support for State programs aimed at providing health care for the uninsured:
“According to figures released by the Census in 2005, more than 46 million people in this country live without even the most basic level of health care coverage. They go about their daily routines, praying that illness or injury doesn’t add health care expense to their already-tenuous family budgets. They work long hours, sometimes at more than one job, but cannot receive health insurance for themselves and their families from their employers because they aren’t considered full-time. Rather than seek basic care for minor health problems, they ignore the symptoms until emergency care is needed.
“Many states have recognized the plight of the working poor, and have taken steps to provide subsidized health care coverage to those who would otherwise be without. We’re living up to our responsibilities, and ensuring that health care access is not offered based on income or job status, but as a basic human right.
“As an outgrowth of State efforts, the federal government stepped up with the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), to help defray the high costs of providing coverage for the uninsured on the State level. In New Jersey, SCHIP dollars go to NJ FamilyCare, a program intended to provide basic medical care access to the more than 1.4 million uninsured residents living in the Garden State.
“Underfunding of the SCHIP initiative could cripple states’ efforts to meet the needs of their residents. Health care costs are soaring nationally, and without the full reauthorization of SCHIP, states will have to cut families from government-subsidized health care programs. As we’ve seen the number of uninsured Americans rise, and a greater role emerge for government-sponsored health care coverage, cutting back our responsibility to the uninsured seems contrary to the direction we should be moving in.
“I strongly urge our federal representatives to fully fund SCHIP, and give States the resources they need to provide adequate coverage for the uninsured. Without a good faith partnership between states and the federal government, we cannot provide the sort of services needed to combat the growing number of uninsured. However, if the federal government can step up and continue meeting its obligations, we can make a difference in the lives of millions of Americans struggling at the lowest end of the income spectrum.”