SPEAKER OLIVER, VAINIERI HUTTLE & STENDER QUESTION ADMINISTRATION DECISION TO CUT HEALTH CARE FOR WOMEN AND NEWBORNS

(TRENTON) — Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, Assembly Human Services Chairwoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Assemblywoman Linda Stender on Friday questioned the administration’s decision to cut funding to pay for health care for women and newborns.

The three Assembly Democratic lawmakers said they were disturbed not only by the administration’s proposed budget cuts for family planning, but by the administration’s decision to withdraw an application that could have brought much-needed federal money into New Jersey to provide family planning for those who otherwise wouldn’t be eligible.

“This decision requires a serious review and raises many concerns about New Jersey’s continued commitment to health care for women and newborns,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “This very well may prove to be a short-sighted decision that costs taxpayers severely as we see more unintended pregnancies and as maternal and newborn health care declines.”

Under Christie’s budget proposal that proposes tax increases on the working poor, middle-class and hospitals while eliminating property tax relief, grants to support clinical family planning and related services would be eliminated to save $7.45 million.

The Department of Human Services has also withdrawn an application that would have extended Medicaid coverage for family planning. The federal government reimburses New Jersey Medicaid expenditures for family planning at the rate of 90 percent.

“This application could have saved New Jersey significant money and brought more federal money into the state,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “We cannot just turn away from vital services for women and newborns that improve public health and save taxpayer money.”

The lawmakers noted more than 136,000 patients were served by family planning in New Jersey last year, helping prevent 40,000 pregnancies and 19,000 abortions and saving the state more than $150 million.

Family planning services involve contraception; routine gynecological exams; screening for high blood pressure, anemia and diabetes; breast and cervical cancer screening and education; screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections; HIV testing and counseling, pre-pregnancy counseling and education; pregnancy testing and confirmation and prenatal care.

“These programs have been a sensible investment in New Jersey’s public health,” said Stender (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset), who has been a vocal opponent of Christie’s plan to cut family planning service. “Not only do they save money, but they help poor and working families obtain health care they otherwise wouldn’t obtain. That saves taxpayers money in the long run.”

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