Lawmakers: Health Care Cuts Will Hurt Economy

NJBIZ — Monday, March 8, 2010

By Andrew Kitchenman

State employers and hospitals will pay more this year due to an increase in the uninsured, state Senate members said Monday morning.

The harm to the economy from increased emergency-room visits and uninsured was one of several arguments made by Sen. Joseph F. Vitale (D-Woodbridge) and Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) at a press conference held by the NJ For Health Care Coalition.

The group is lobbying to restore funding for the state FamilyCare and Charity Care programs, which were cut by Gov. Chris Christie in order to balance this year's state budget. Charity Care was reduced by $12.6 million, while the Health Care Subsidy Fund, which funds FamilyCare, was reduced by $10 million.

Vitale said the cuts are not limited to the uninsured.

"It affects hospitals, it affects businesses, it affects everyone who pays health insurance," Vitale said, pointing to hospitals building in the additional cost of treating the uninsured in their billing. "Its hidden costs are significant."

He added that no one disagrees that the state budget situation is the toughest in memory.

Weinberg called the cuts "inappropriate, in terms of the economy of our state." She said the combination of cutting FamilyCare, which pays for doctor visits for low-income children and parents, and Charity Care, which funds hospital care for low-income residents, is harmful.

NJ For Health Care Coalition member Eve Weissman noted that FamilyCare would lose its federal match, which equals 65 percent of the total funding, so "cutting this program costs New Jersey more than it saves," said Weissman, the health care campaign coordinator for the nonprofit group New Jersey Citizen Action.

While the group's concerns were about the budget that ends on June 30, Christie administration officials have said they are not focused on the budget that begins on July 1.

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