WEINBERG, SWEENEY BILLS TO FUND WOMEN’S HEALTH CARE ADVANCE

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Bills Would Restore Funding For Family Planning Clinics And Leverage Federal Medicaid Funds For Women’s Health

TRENTON – The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senate President Steve Sweeney that would restore state funds for family planning centers. A second bill, sponsored by Senator Weinberg, would extend Medicaid coverage of family planning services to more women by leveraging federal matching funds.

The first bill, S-2277, would restore $7.5 million in funding cut by Governor Christie for family planning clinics that provide a wide range of services for women. The second bill, S-1017, would provide Medicaid coverage for family planning services to individuals with income up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This expansion would entitle New Jersey to nine dollars in federal reimbursement for every additional dollar the State spends for family planning services provided through the Medicaid program.

“Family planning and preventive health services are part of the basic health care that all residents deserve. Funding for these important services not only provide women and families with more control over their health, it is also smart fiscal policy,” said Senator Weinberg. “We know that preventive health care saves considerable costs in the long-term. In addition, it will help to protect the health of women and families in our state now and into the future.”

“For the last six years, women and families in New Jersey have watched in frustration as the administration decided women’s health wasn’t a big enough priority for the New Jersey budget. We have continued to fight for this funding, and to add millions of dollars to the budget, because we believe access to preventive care, cancer screenings, STI testing and other services are critically important. Again, we advanced this legislation in an attempt to make sure that health care facilities like Planned Parenthood are available and accessible to women in this state,” said Senate President Sweeney.

In the FY 2011 budget the governor eliminated $7.5 million in grants for family planning services. Due to the cuts, Planned Parenthood was forced to close six women’s health clinics. Planned Parenthood Action Fund of NJ has reported that since 2009, the number of cases of bacterial sexually transmitted diseases has increased more than 27 percent statewide. In more than one-third of New Jersey counties, the increase has been nearly 50 percent or above.

The grants would provide information and counseling on reproductive choices, physicals, cancer screenings, pregnancy testing, the diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, prenatal counseling and substance abuse programs, among other important health services that many women can’t afford or are otherwise unable to access.

“The governor has defunded women’s health care as a way to boost his conservative credentials, and as a result access has been reduced and the healthcare picture in our state has worsened. We are going to continue to advocate for this funding because family planning services are so important to our residents. For New Jersey families, this is about their health care and their lives,” said Senator Weinberg.

Extending Medicaid eligibility to non-pregnant women with income up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level – the same threshold used for pregnant women – would provide increased access to family planning services and address substantial disparities and coverage gaps for New Jersey residents.

“By providing a modest amount of state funding, we can restore critical health care services for women and would generate significant federal funds to assist lower-income women in need of care. Failing to enact these bills means leaving critical health care dollars in Washington, D.C. that could be used for cancer screenings, birth control, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and more,” added Weinberg.

S-2277 was approved by a vote of 9-4; S-1017 was approved by a vote of 9-4.