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$7.5 Million Restoration Would Benefit & Protect Women, Newborns

(TRENTON) — Legislation Assemblywomen Linda Stender, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Celeste M. Riley, Linda R. Greenstein and Pamela R. Lampitt sponsored to reverse the Christie administration’s decision to cut family planning in the proposed budget, restoring $7.5 million in for the programs, was released 5-4 Thursday by an Assembly panel.

The 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.

The Department of Human Services has also withdrawn an application that would have extended Medicaid coverage for family planning.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.

“Refusing federal funding for essential health care services is the height of fiscal irresponsibility,” said Stender (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset), a vocal opponent of Christie’s plan to cut family planning services. “Restoring the funding will save lives and money and will keep New Jerseyans — especially women — from needlessly dying from diseases that can be treated with proper screening.”

The Democratic lawmakers’ legislation (A-3019) calls upon the state Commissioner of Human Services to submit the necessary application to the federal government to help expand Medicaid’s coverage so that individuals with incomes of up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level can receive family planning services from Medicaid. Current law requires recipients to make no more than 100 percent of the federal poverty level.

By expanding Medicaid, New Jersey would receive $9 in federal aid for every $1 spent in Medicaid funding.

“Resubmitting the federal application will save New Jersey significant money and bring 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 while saving 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.

“Investing in family planning services will save the state 20 times what it costs to restore the programs,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “From the financial perspective, it is an investment we should make. And from the human perspective, it is an investment we must make.”

“The health needs of poor and working-class families — especially women, mothers and newborns — cannot simply be written off to balance the state’s books,” said Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We have a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us and ensure they receive the care they need to live healthy, productive lives.”

“Spending cuts are needed, but they must be the right ones,” said Lampitt (D-Camden). “Spending cuts that cost us more money down the road when women and newborns don’t get the health care they deserve are short-sighted and costly foolishness.”

The bill was released by the Assembly Budget Committee and is expected to get a vote Monday by the full Assembly.

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