Sen. Vitale Joins Chorus Protesting Budget Cuts To Health Care

NJBIZ —Tuesday, May 12, 2009

By Shankar P.

TRENTON — State Sen. Joseph F. Vitale (D-Woodbridge) today said he would vote against the state budget for fiscal 2010 unless the proposed funding cuts are restored for the New Jersey FamilyCare, Medicaid and the AIDS Drug Distribution programs. He said he is willing to discuss alternatives to the proposed cuts — totaling some $16 million — “but at the end of the day, I cannot, and I will not, vote for a budget that cuts funding to these vital programs.”

Vitale, chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, attacked the proposed cuts at a press conference this morning in Trenton, along with representatives of other health care policy groups.

Ev Liebman, director of organizing and advocacy for NJ Citizen Action of Newark, said the “funding cuts roll back progress made in New Jersey to provide accessible, quality coverage to low-income working families.” If implemented, the cutbacks will cost the state “significantly more money in charity care costs and health costs associated with acute illnesses that could have been prevented if people had coverage,” she added.

If the cuts go through, an estimated 17,000 low-income working parents will lose health coverage, and many thousands of children also will not be enrolled in the program, according to Liebman and Ray Castro, a senior policy analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective in Trenton, who spoke at the press conference.

“We know from past experience when the program was cut back in a similar way, the state’s charity-care dollars increased and enrolment in family care of children decreased,” Castro said. The state had begun enrolling parents in NJ FamilyCare program in 2000 and stopped that two years later, before opening it up again for parents last year, he added.

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