Says Portion of Expected New Revenues Should be Used to Reverse Governor’s Painful, Short-sighted Cuts to Women’s Health, Family Planning Programs
TRENTON – Senator Loretta Weinberg, the Chairwoman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and a leading voice in the State Legislature to reverse Governor Christie’s cuts to women’s health and family planning programs in New Jersey, today reintroduced legislation to fund these programs in the FY 2012 Budget.
“Since last year, every time we’ve brought up the issue of funding for women’s health care, we were told that the money wasn’t there,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “Of course, we’ve since learned that the money was always there, and that accounts we identified to fund these programs during last year’s budget deliberations are running a surplus this year which would have more than paid for the Governor’s cuts. With more than $900 million coming into the State through increased income tax collections, there’s no excuse – short of conservative political ideology – not to fund women’s health care and family planning now.”
Senator Weinberg’s bill, introduced today, would restore the full amount of $7.5 million – less than one percent of the OLS-projected $900 million increase in income tax collections – in slashed funds for women’s health clinics and family planning centers in the State Budget. Senator Weinberg said the legislation would also direct the State to apply for matching federal funds for Medicaid-eligible women served by these facilities – a move which would bring in nine dollars for every one dollar spent on care at the State level.
“These funds are used to increase access for breast cancer screening and gynecological exams, HIV testing and STD testing and treatment, blood pressure screening, pre- and post-natal care, and yes, access to family planning resources and contraception,” said Senator Weinberg. “These are basic health services which are either hard to come by, or completely unavailable and inaccessible anywhere else in the State for economically-disadvantaged women. It’s time to stand up for our priorities and make sure women in need are able to access the services they need to stay healthy.”
The Senator noted that under federal and state law, not one dime could be used to finance abortion procedures.
Senator Weinberg said that funding women’s health and family planning in New Jersey also makes economic sense. She said that investing in these programs – and applying for federal matching funds – could save New Jersey more than $40 million a year in health care costs elsewhere in the system. She added that in one year of defunding, nearly 40,000 women were turned away at women’s healthcare facilities due to the lack of resources to provide care, and that six facilities have shut their doors forever.
“We’ve essentially set up a health care crisis for women in New Jersey who cannot afford the high cost of health insurance,” said Senator Weinberg. “Women’s health clinics and family planning centers have fulfilled a real need for access to care, and cuts in State and federal funding make access to care more and more difficult for uninsured women. The Governor has said all along that his decision to defund women’s health in New Jersey was dictated by budgetary realities – it’s time for him to put our money where his mouth is, and work with us to make an economically-smart, socially-conscientious investment in women’s healthcare moving forward.”
Senator Weinberg said that Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem, has committed to posting the bill for a vote on Monday in recognition of the need to increase healthcare access for women in New Jersey.