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Vitale – Wrong Time To Divert Medicaid And Family Care Surplus

Senator Notes Number One Concern for Residents During Recession is Affording Health Care

TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and author of a plan to make affordable health care coverage available to the uninsured, issued the following statement after today’s Committee hearing on the FY 2009 Department of Human Services budget, and plans to tap into Medicaid and FamilyCare fund surpluses for the State’s general operating expenses:

“In New Jersey and across the country, people are facing an extraordinarily uncertain economic future. A national recession and a devalued dollar have forced families around the Garden State to make difficult choices about which bills to pay, and which to put off.

“This is not the sort of time that the State should consider spending down its healthy surplus in programs designed to act as a safety net for New Jerseyans who cannot afford health care access on their own. Funds designated for Medicaid and FamilyCare must stay within those programs, and it would be unconscionable to divert these dollars to fund State bureaucracy.

“In the health care reform plan I introduced earlier this year, we wanted to use existing State resources to fund an expansion of FamilyCare. At a time when people are forced to choose between health care and basic living expenses, expanding the health care safety net for the uninsured makes sense. But I totally disagree with the notion that we need to use these surpluses to prop up the operating costs of State government.

“At the end of the day, we owe it to the people we represent to be responsive to their needs. Poll after poll has shown that more people are concerned with losing access to health care than they are to being a victim in a terrorist attack. Eliminating surplus funds in FamilyCare and Medicaid so State government can continue to limp on is irresponsible, and I urge the Governor to look elsewhere for those funds in State government.”

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