Assembly Panel OKs Democratic Measures to Restore Christie-Era Cuts to Critical Women’s Health Funding

(TRENTON) – A two-bill package that will restore healthcare funding for women and children that the Christie administration had cut for the last eight years was advanced Monday by the Assembly Budget Committee chaired by Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin.

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The panel advanced the bills during its first hearing chaired by Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Essex), who has long championed restoring the critical funding.

Co-sponsored by Pintor Marin, the measures would restore the $7.45 million in funding for women’s health centers eliminated by Gov. Christie and expand Medicaid coverage under federal law to help serve some of the state’s poorest women.

The first bill (A-2134) would provide $7,453,000 for the current fiscal year in supplemental funding for Family Planning Services grants through the state Department of Health.

Despite being funded in every state budget since 1970, Governor Christie routinely eliminated the $7.4 million appropriation for women’s health care services in the state budget every year of his tenure. Assembly Democrats repeatedly attempted to restore the funding only to have it vetoed by Christie.

The sponsors noted that in 2009 this funding helped support life-saving services for over 136,000 patients, including cancer screenings, birth control, prevention and treatment of STIs, breast health services, Pap tests and other health screenings. As a direct result of Christie’s cuts, six out of 58 women’s health and family planning centers closed while other health centers had to cut back staff or hours. In 2013, New Jersey’s family planning providers saw at least 37,000 fewer patients compared with 2009 – a 27 percent drop in patients served.

The sponsors noted that the legislation expressly prohibits the funding from being used towards abortion services.

The second bill (A-1656) would expand Medicaid coverage of family planning services to non-pregnant individuals whose income does not exceed the highest income eligibility level established for pregnant women under current state plan, which is currently 200 percent of the federal poverty level in New Jersey.

“Not only is this funding a compassionate move, it’s a financially prudent one, as well,” said Pintor Marin. “We can’t leave this money sitting on the table when women’s health centers throughout the state have been forced to close or turn patients away. With the federal government covering 90 percent of the cost, this is an investment well worth making on behalf of struggling women and families across New Jersey.”

This bill would exercise a state option provided under the federal “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” which permits states to expand family planning services through a state plan amendment. In doing so, the federal government would pay 90 percent of the costs for these services.

Co-sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Joann Downey, Gabriela Mosquera, Pamela Lampitt, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Angelica Jimenez, Shavonda Sumter, Joseph Lagana, Mila Jasey, and Raj Mukherji – the bills now await consideration by the full Assembly.

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