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Vitale/Madden Bill To Increase Awareness And Enrollment In Health Care Programs Advances

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Fred H. Madden that would create an outreach and enrollment initiative to increase the number of New Jersey’s children and low-income adults enrolled in New Jersey FamilyCare and other safety net programs was approved yesterday by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

“There are children throughout New Jersey who are going without the medical attention they need, because their parents simply believe that they cannot afford to provide them with adequate health care coverage,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “This is not the case with programs such as Medicaid, NJ FamilyCare, and NJ FamilyCare Advantage. Parents in the Garden State do not have to live in fear that their child will get sick or hurt and they will be unable to provide the help they need to get better. We have a great opportunity to shed light on and increase enrollment in these programs and to make sure that all of New Jersey’s children have access to quality health care coverage.”

The bill (S-2643) would appropriate $1 million to FamilyCare for enhanced outreach and an enrollment initiative intended to increase the number of children covered by the Medicaid, NJ FamilyCare and NJ FamilyCare Advantage programs.

“We have made great strides in this state to ensure that every child has access to quality, affordable health care, but there are still hundreds of thousands of New Jersey children without health insurance,” said Senator Madden (D-Gloucester/Camden) “We should use this bonus money to bring awareness to programs such as NJ FamilyCare, so that these children’s parents and guardians will take the necessary steps to enroll their children in these programs and provide them with the health care they need.”

The funds would come from the $8.8 million bonus New Jersey received from the federal government for signing up children who are eligible for health care assistance programs but had previously failed to be enrolled. New Jersey received this recognition in December 2010 due to the state’s efforts to expand FamilyCare enrollment for children. In recent years, New Jersey has expanded its outreach to eligible families, including automatic enrollment for families qualifying for reduced school lunch, and a simpler application process for eligible families.

It is estimated that more than 4.7 million children nationally qualify for health care assistance but are not enrolled. In New Jersey, more than 1 million people – including more than 300,000 children – are without health insurance. The Senators noted that the number of uninsured people may be even greater, as New Jerseyans continue to deal with record-high unemployment and the effects of a soft economy.

It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.