Universal health coverage for every child in N.J. is imminent. All that’s needed is Murphy’s signature.

Posted Jun 24, 2021

There are about 88,000 children in New Jersey who lack health insurance, but perhaps not for much longer.

Both the state Senate and Assembly voted Thursday to approve the “Cover All Kids” bill, which would dedicate $20 million to expand the reach of New Jersey FamilyCare, the state’s Medicaid program.

Gov. Phil Murphy is a lock to sign the bill, (S3798). The budget he introduced in February declared covering all uninsured children a priority.

“This new law will remove the remaining barriers that once and for all creates true universal health care for all of our children,” said the bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex.

NJ FamilyCare already covers one in three New Jersey children, according to NJ Policy Perspective.

The majority of these 88,000 uninsured children — 58% — come from families whose income already qualifies them for NJ FamilyCare, said Brittany L. Holom-Trundy, a senior analyst with Policy Perspective. It is likely these families just don’t know the program exists, or if they do, believe they don’t qualify for coverage, she said.

The legislation also makes covering children easier by eliminates waiting periods and premiums for income-eligible families. Families who make too much to qualify for free care may request a hardship exemption from the state, according to the bill.

Families who make too much money to qualify for free coverage may buy a policy at a reduced rate under the FamilyCare Advantage program, which would be created under the legislation. The state formerly operated a FamilyCare Advantage program but it folded after the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health care law, took effect in 2014.

The bill also requires the state Department of Human Services to launch a campaign to boost enrollment. It also requires the governor to include a $20 million line item for this purpose in the budget annually.

The Assembly approved the bill by a 70-0 vote with three abstentions. The Senate approved it 39-0.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-06-25 03:22:59 -0700