Weinberg-Vitale Applaud Federal Medicaid Award

Urge Administration Officials to Pledge to Use Funds for Children’s Health Care Access

TRENTON – In response to news reports earlier this week that New Jersey is in line to receive an $8.8 million bonus in federal Medicaid funds as a result of the State’s efforts to enroll uninsured children in health care access programs, State Senators Loretta Weinberg and Joseph F. Vitale, the Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, applauded the news, and urged Governor Christie’s Administration to put the funds towards expanding access to health care programs even further.

“After numerous disappointments involving federal funds – from the Administration’s failure on New Jersey’s Race to the Top application, to its failure to apply for matching family planning funding and the news that New Jersey is going to have to pay back federal funds intended for the trans-Hudson tunnel – this multi-million dollar Medicaid bonus is welcome news,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “As State programs are forced to do more with less in order to cope with the double assault of a weak economy and the Governor’s budget cuts, the Medicaid bonus funds can be put to good use expanding health care access for the uninsured. We have to live by our commitment of ensuring health care access for children in need, whether that means funding programs to keep expecting moms healthy, or pediatric care, or access to basic health care for adults in need.”

“Providing access to decent, affordable health care is one of New Jersey’s most sacred obligations to its residents,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “The awarding of a multi-million dollar Medicaid bonus is recognition that the State’s efforts, over more than a decade, to provide health care access to children in need have worked, and that we’re on the right course. At a time when families in the Garden State are struggling to make ends meet, we need to continue our progress to expand the accessibility of quality care to all New Jersey residents.”

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that fifteen states would share $206 million in bonus Medicaid payments for signing up children who are eligible for health care assistance programs but had previously failed to be enrolled. New Jersey is set to receive $8.8 million in recognition of the State’s efforts to expand FamilyCare, the publicly-subsidized health care program for families with incomes above the federal Medicaid threshold but who still make under 350% of the federal poverty level, or just over $77,000 a year in income for a family of four. 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 deal with record-high unemployment and the effects of a soft economy.

“While we’ve made great strides in reaching FamilyCare-eligible families, we have to do a better job to ensure that everyone has access to health care,” said Senator Vitale. “In the 21st century United States, health care shouldn’t be a privilege for the economically well-off, but a fundamental right for all people. Hopefully, we can put federal assistance to good use enrolling more eligible people in State health care programs.”

“With more New Jerseyans than ever before out of work, every cent of federal health care assistance must be dedicated to providing direct health care services for the uninsured,” said Senator Weinberg. “I would hope that the Christie Administration recognizes just how much federal health care aid is needed, now more than ever, and would guarantee that the funds won’t be funneled to other programs or purposes. With so many New Jersey families struggling every day, we must do everything we can to help them through this difficult economic period.”