(TRENTON) — Legislation sponsored by Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald to continue allowing parents to enroll in the state’s health insurance program for the working poor was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-3020) would reallocate $24.6 million of the $665 million that Gov. Chris Christie proposes in his budget to give hospitals for treating uninsured patients and use it to enroll working poor parents in NJ FamilyCare.

Christie has proposed giving hospitals $60 million more by expanding an existing tax on hospitals, while freezing enrollment into the successful FamilyCare program.

Greenwald in recent years has sponsored several laws to enhance the FamilyCare program that saves taxpayers money by reducing emergency room visits for uninsured patients.

“Freezing enrollment in this successful program makes little sense for New Jersey taxpayers,” said Greenwald (D-Camden). “It is poor public policy that will overburden hospitals struggling under the new Christie hospital tax. Preventing working parents from receiving health insurance has never been a core New Jersey value, and we shouldn’t embrace it now.”

Under the bill, 39,000 uninsured parents would be able to join FamilyCare, and the state would receive about $46 million in federal matching funds.

“This makes sense both from a human and fiscal point of view,” Greenwald said. “Providing working parents with health insurance and an incentive to enroll their children is not only the right thing to do morally, but the right thing for our beleaguered taxpayers.”

The bill was released 5-4 by the Assembly Budget Committee and is expected to be considered Monday by the full Assembly.

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