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Whelan-Vitale Medicaid Bill Package Approved In Full Senate

Legislation Would Enhance Oversight of Spending, Increase Funding for Family Planning Services

TRENTON – A bill package sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan, a member of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, and Senator Joseph F. Vitale, the Chair of the Senate Health Committee, which would make various changes to the State’s Medicaid program to improve oversight of spending and increase funding for family planning was approved by the Senate today.

“New Jersey, like the rest of the nation, is in the midst of one of the most severe economic crises of our lifetime,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “As a result, hard-hit families are turning to programs like Medicaid to help get them through. We have to make sure, in State government, that we do everything in our power to improve the accountability of programs and increase the federal return of tax dollars, to help the most economically disadvantaged in our society get through these difficult times.”

“We have a responsibility to New Jerseyans in greatest need to make sure that our Medicaid program is funded well and secure against fraud and abuse,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Demand for safety net programs like Medicaid, rental assistance, utility assistance and food stamps is at an all-time high. It’s more important than ever before that we get the greatest return from the federal government to match funding of these programs and guard against those who would take advantage of these programs.”

The first bill in the package, S-3051, which was approved by a vote of 35-0, would require health care service firms to file annual cost reports with the Division of Disability Services in order to receive reimbursement from the State Medicaid program for providing personal care assistant services to Medicaid recipients. The bill would codify existing budget language and State Department of Human Services regulations that have been in place since 2002, and are intended to improve oversight and cut down on wasteful spending in the Medicaid program.

“Particularly as we face nearly chronic budgetary problems in New Jersey, we need to account for every dollar spent to make sure that funds are being spent appropriately,” said Senator Whelan. “This bill enhances the oversight and cost controls of the Medicaid program to make sure that New Jersey’s taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for systemic fraud and abuse. At a time when more New Jerseyans than ever are turning to the Medicaid program and other safety net programs to help them meet their health care needs, this bill would make sure that we can continue to meet the needs of our State’s residents without potential for fraud.”

The second bill in the package, S-3055, which was approved by a vote of 23-14, would provide for the transfer of funds from the Department of Health and Senior Services to the Department of Human Services to increase the Medicaid reimbursement for family planning services. Under Title X of the federal Public Health Service Act, every dollar that the State invests in increasing the reimbursement rate for family planning services under the lawmakers’ bill would be matched by $9 in federal funding.

The bill defines family planning services as comprehensive reproductive health care services, including contraception, pregnancy detection, diagnosis, treatment or both of sexually transmitted diseases, routine gynecological and cancer screening services and other health care services. The bill notes that family planning services, for the purpose of this legislation, may also include prenatal and postpartum care, menopausal services, and infertility testing. However, under the bill, abortion services would not be covered under the defined types of family planning office visits eligible for increased reimbursement under the Medicaid program.

“This legislation makes a relatively minimal re-investment of $149,000 in already-committed State funds to leverage more than a million dollars in federal matching funds that will help meet the reproductive health needs of New Jersey’s most economically disadvantaged,” said Senator Vitale. “This makes fiscal sense, and would enhance the State Medicaid’s program to provide the best reproductive health care services to the greatest number of people in need.”

S-3051 was approved by the Assembly on Monday by a vote of 73-4, and now heads to the Governor to be signed into law. S-3055 heads to the full Assembly for consideration.