Press of Atlantic City

Corzine Signs Bill To Widen NJ Health Care As National Effort Kicks Off

Press of Atlantic City — Tuesday, July 8, 2008

By DEREK HARPER
Statehouse Bureau

TRENTON — Health care advocates in 52 cities across the country unveiled a $40 million national campaign Tuesday that sought to push political candidates for more affordable, more easily accessible health care, while the governor signed a bill that would expand the state's publicly funded health care system.

In Trenton, New Jersey Citizen Action called for a choice of public or private care that leaves no one out. They are one of the mostly progressive groups across the nation allied with Health Care For America NOW, www.healthcareforamericanow.org.

"In our vision of health care reform, the government works for us – setting and enforcing rules so that insurance companies put our health before their profits," organizer Ev Liebman said. "In our vision, people have a choice so they are not at the mercy of the private health insurance industry. In our vision, quality goes up and cost goes down. In our vision, we get rid of the enormous inequities in the health care system for people of color. And in our vision, health insurance is affordable to American businesses – both big and small."

Speakers said the current system is costly and leaves many people out. Jodi Godfrey, a self-employed medical writer and health care committee chair of the progressive BlueWave NJ group, recounted being dropped from coverage because her payment was one day late.

After seeking out private coverage, she said, her insurer refused to pay for blood tests, saying, "They told me my blood was a preexisting condition."

While both presumptive presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have suggested different strategies, Liebman said the group does not formally endorse either candidate's proposals.

The news conference came the day Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed the state's FamilyCare expansion into law at the Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy.

Liebman said the groups applauded the bill but said the timing of the two events was coincidental.

In signing the bill, Corzine called it in a prepared statement "a giant leap on the road to universal health care coverage in New Jersey."

State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, bill sponsor and author of a separate state universal health care plan, said in a statement that "the system of forcing the uninsured to seek costly emergency care, rather than see a doctor for regular medical checkups and preventive health care, is dysfunctional and unsustainable."

It was sponsored locally by state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, and Assemblymen John J. Burzichelli and Douglas H. Fisher, both D-Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester. The Legislature passed the bill last month.

The bill would provide health care for all children and some lower-income parents, at the cost of as much as $46.3 million by 2011. It is expected to add about 250,000 children.

The state currently covers 124,000 children and 97,000 adults through the SCHIP program, while Medicaid insures about 598,000 children and 453,000 adults.

The FamilyCare bill:

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