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NJ For Health Care Coalition Urges State Lawmakers To "Cover All Kids" During Pandemic

Insider NJ — May 19, 2020

Trenton — New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA) today joined the New Jersey Education Association, Faith in New Jersey, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Lutherans Engaging in Advocacy Ministries Inc, NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice and other experts and advocates from the NJ for Health Care Coalition for a Zoom press conference calling on the State Legislature to advance S876, which would ensure all children in New Jersey have access to health care coverage.

In the midst of a global pandemic, economic downturn and widespread violence and protests brought on by longstanding racial inequities, at least 80,000 New Jersey children remain uninsured. Approximately three-quarters of these children are children of color. New Jersey communities of color have been devastated by the pandemic and continue to struggle even as the state grapples with gradually reopening the economy.

"We've worked with legislators, allies and experts for two years on this bill, but there is no more urgent time than in the midst of the COVID pandemic to ensure we cover all kids," said Maura Collinsgru, NJCA Health Care Program Director "We know that without access to health care individuals put off getting care, making it that much harder to effectively treat COVID-related illnesses. During this health crisis we're only as healthy as our neighbors or our children, as one person can affect many. We can't think about re-starting day care centers or returning to schools without ensuring all children have access to healthcare."

"The people of New Jersey are living in one of the biggest hot spots of a historic pandemic, and yet the parents of approximately 80,000 children do not know whether they will be able to get care for their child if they fall ill," said Dr. Brittany Holom, Senior Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP). "Due to the nation's legacy of slavery and institutional racism, New Jersey's communities of color are not only the hardest hit by COVID-19, but they are also disproportionately represented among the state's uninsured. To achieve an equitable and just New Jersey, state lawmakers must break down barriers to high-quality health care, and that starts with ensuring all kids have comprehensive and affordable coverage."

"Faith in New Jersey represents a range of faith communities with different approaches, but the same commitment to lifting up the voices of those with the least power," said Charlene Walker, Executive Director of Faith in New Jersey. "All of us are called or commanded to care for children - whether our own or others. Healthcare is a human right. We cannot create a healthy society, when children are sick or dying."

"No child's life should be needlessly endangered, nor should a child have to endure excruciating pain for any length of time—and be charged thousands of dollars for a single hospital visit—simply because they are shut out of health care options due to their immigration status," said Carrey Wong, Managing Attorney for Kids in Need of Defense.

"Children will be going back to school this fall, 70,000 of these students do not have access to health care, this will put all residents at risk," said Sara Lilja, Executive Director, Lutherans Engaging in Advocacy Ministries, Inc. "During this public health crisis we have surely grown to see that when some people are ill, quickly others can become ill too. If our hearts are so hardened to the needs of vulnerable children, surely we can understand how their exclusion from the health care system can and will effect us all. The opportunity for hard working mothers and fathers to take their children to a Doctor is a moral issue; we must pass the Cover All Kids legislation now so that all kids in our state can be well and do well in school."

"Health care is an educational issue," said Marie Blistan, President of the New Jersey Education Association. "When children lack access to health care, they cannot learn, grow, and succeed to their full potential. As a matter of social justice, educational justice and human rights, we must make sure our students have access to health care."

"Every child in New Jersey should be able to go to a doctor if they get sick or need preventative health services," said Maneesha Kelkar, Interim Director, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. "Without health coverage, medical care is delayed or often denied. In New Jersey, the Covid19 crisis has put a spotlight on the consequences of the lack of healthcare access. The pandemic struck the Latino, Black, and immigrant communities in New Jersey particularly hard because of diminished access to healthcare in these communities. We must take advantage of this opportunity to cover more New Jerseyans and foster healthy communities in our state,"

In a letter to Governor Murphy and state lawmakers, the advocate proposed funding the "Cover All Kids" legislation by coupling the bill's passage with legislation picking up the federal Health Insurance Assessment (HIA) expiring on January 1, 2021. The federal HIA currently applies to fully regulated large, small and individual group plans, Medicaid managed care organizations, Medicare advantage and prescription drug plans, and federal employee plans, generating $567 million from New Jersey insurers.

Because New Jersey's Medicaid contribution under the federal HIA is $125 million and the fact that Medicare or federal employee plans would be exempt from a state HIA, New Jersey could generate more than $400 million by enacting a state level replacement assessment now. The HIA legislation would dedicate these funds to expanding affordability and coverage options on the newly created New Jersey state health exchange and move our state closer to the goal of ensuring all New Jerseyans have access to health care, beginning with coverage for all kids.

"We thank Senator Vitale for championing the Cover All Kids legislation, which is not only a necessity during this pandemic, but will help address some longstanding socio-economic and racial inequalities," said Collinsgru. "We urge the rest the Legislature to advance this bill and pass it into law as soon as possible."

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