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Assembly Panel Approves Democratic Measures to Boost Funding for Women’s Health Care

Mazzeo, Downey, Mosquera, Lampitt, Vainieri Huttle, Jimenez, Pintor Marin, Sumter, Oliver, Lagana, Jasey & Mukherji Two-Bill Package Would Restore Funding for Women’s Health Centers & Expand Medicaid Coverage

(TRENTON) – A two-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats to boost funding for health care for low and middle income women and their children in the FY 2018 budget was approved Monday by the Assembly Budget Committee.

The measures – sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vincent Mazzeo, Joann Downey, Gabriela Mosquera, Pamela Lampitt, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Angelica Jimenez, Eliana Pintor Marin, Shavonda Sumter, Sheila Oliver, Joe Lagana, Mila Jasey and Raj Mukherji – would restore the funding eliminated by Gov. Christie for women’s health centers and expand Medicaid coverage under federal law to help serve some of the state’s poorest women.

The first bill (A-4718), sponsored by Mazzeo, Downey, Mosquera, Lampitt, Vainieri Huttle, Jimenez, Pintor Marin, Sumter and Oliver, would supplement the Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Appropriations Act in providing $7,453,000 from the General Fund for Family Planning Services grants, through the Department of Health. The bill would specify that the funding may not be used for abortion procedures. The bill would take effect immediately.

The sponsors noted that in 2009 this funding helped support life-saving services for over 136,000 patients, including cancer screenings, birth control, prevention and treatment of STIs, breast health services, Pap tests and other health screenings.

However, since taking office in 2010, Governor Christie has routinely eliminated $7.4 million for women’s health care services in the state budget. Assembly Democrats have repeatedly attempted to restore the funding only to have it vetoed by Christie.

The elimination of this funding has resulted in both the closing of centers that provide family planning services and a reduction in the availability of such services, as the remaining sources of federal and private funding for these centers were insufficient to maintain existing services.

“In difficult fiscal times, the priorities we choose show our character as a state,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “From a financial perspective, this relatively small investment pays enormous dividends and is a cost effective way to improve the health and well-being of women and children in New Jersey.”

The second bill (A-32), sponsored by Pintor Marin, Lagana, Jasey, Mukherji and Downey, would provide Medicaid coverage for family planning services to individuals whose income does not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

“Not only is this funding a compassionate move, it’s a financially prudent one, as well,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “We can’t leave this money sitting on the table when women’s health centers throughout the state have been forced to close or turn patients away. With the federal government covering 90 percent of the cost, this is an investment well worth making on behalf of struggling women and families across New Jersey.”

Specifically, the bill would expand coverage of family planning services to non-pregnant individuals whose income does not exceed the highest income eligibility level established for pregnant women under the State plan under Title XIX or Title XXI of the federal Social Security Act (Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, respectively), which is currently 200 percent of the federal poverty level in New Jersey.

This bill would exercise a new state option provided under the federal “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” as amended by the “Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010,” which permits states to expand family planning services through a State plan amendment, rather than through a demonstration waiver under section 1115 of the Social Security Act. Under federal law, the federal government would pay 90 percent of the costs for these services.

The bill would take effect on the first day of the fourth month following its enactment, but authorizes the Commissioner of Human Services to take such prior administrative action as may be necessary for implementation.