National Center for Children in Poverty critcizes cuts to N.J. FamilyCare, Medicaid

TRENTON – A national report defends one of the state’s key programs for providing health care to lower-income residents.

The National Center for Children in Poverty has issued an analysis of Gov. Chris Christie’s cuts to New Jersey Family Care and proposed state Medicaid cuts that concludes, among other things:

* Cutting Medicaid is neither a principal cause of nor ideal solution to the state’s budget woes;

* Slashing Medicaid exacerbates the state’s already sluggish economic woes, costing the state jobs as well as federal funds;

* And that although Christie recently changed course on his earlier proposal to drastically reduce parents’ enrollment guidelines in N.J. FamilyCare, much damage already has been done because 2010 income eligibility levels were dropped from 200 percent to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

“New Jersey serves as an example of the challenging fiscal environment in which critical programs operate across states,” the National Center’s report states.

“Across the country, states grapple with the reality of unflagging unemployment and weak revenues,” the report states.

“Fiscal prudence competes with an unprecedented need for public services as poverty rates continue to rise. In 2010, 15.4 percent of children living in poverty were uninsured, yet Medicaid has taken primacy over other public programs being targeted for cuts.”

Cutting N.J. FamilyCare funding just makes a bad situation worse, the report claims.

New Jersey Policy Perspective president Deborah Howlett said, “Programs like NJ FamilyCare are essential in helping lower-income families escape the cycle of poverty.

“This report shows quite eloquently the effect we’ve seen across the board in New Jersey when it comes to social safety net programs. We cannot afford to keep paring them back, and, especially in these difficult economic times, we would do better by looking for ways to expand programs such as NJ FamilyCare.”

The report comes at a time when the Senate Health Committee will consider two bills on Monday that would restore some money for N.J. FamilyCare:

* S2751 would provide a supplemental  appropriation of $6.4 million in state funds to the Department of Human Services to  enable adults with income between 134 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level to enroll and continue to be enrolled in the NJ FamilyCare program.

According to the bill, these state funds will generate approximately $11.9 million in federal funds on behalf of adults with income between 134 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

* S2643 would make a supplemental appropriation of $1 million for an enhanced outreach and enrollment initiative intended to increase the number of children covered by the Medicaid, NJ FamilyCare and NJ FamilyCare Advantage programs.

Both bills are sponsored by Sen. Joseph Vitale, (D-19), Woodbridge.

The report:

  National Center for Children in Poverty critcizes cuts to N.J. FamilyCare, Medicaid