TRENTON – Health care advocates and officials representing developmentally disabled residents praised the governor’s acceptance of the federal Medicaid expansion and urged lawmakers today to retain funding levels laid out in Christie’s budget proposal.
“We are very grateful for his continued commitment,” said Thomas Baffuto, executive director of The Arc of New Jersey, which supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, in remarks before the Senate Budget Committee.
“Please preserve the funding,” Baffuto asked, telling lawmakers to retain the funding levels put forward in the governor’s spending proposal.
The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies echoed Baffuto’s comments.
“One of the many highlights of Gov. Christie’s budget address is his decision to expand Medicaid eligibility,” said Debra Wentz, CEO of the association.
“This wise investment will not only enable New Jersey to replace substantial existing state-only dollars to pay for the treatment and services … it will also save millions of dollars currently spent on the consequences of these untreated disorders.”
However, the entire health care community was not on the same page in terms of accepting the governor’s spending recommendations.
Members of Health Professionals and Allied Employees, a union representing 12,000 nurses and health care workers, criticized the proposal for plans to cut Department of Health and Senior Services funding.
Jeanne Otersen, policy director for the union, told lawmakers the cuts have resulted in decreased accountability at New Jersey hospitals.
“The 2014 DOH budget proposes only $2.5 million in revenue from ‘licenses, fines, permits, penalties and fees,’ down from nearly $12.6 million in FY 2012. We wonder if this reflects, in part, diminished enforcement actions and/or cuts to penalties imposed on hospitals for violating state regulations?” Otersen asked.
“While my intention is not to promote frivolous fines, it would appear the DOH has in fact reduced enforcement actions,” she said. “I would ask that this committee ask that question from DOH.”
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Paul Sarlo, said lawmakers will continue their “fact finding” until updated revenue numbers are released in May.
“That’s when we go into high gear,” Sarlo said.