The Bush administration's attempts to exclude thousands of children from the state's FamilyCare health insurance program are unconscionable and unacceptable.
I applaud Governor Corzine for threatening to take legal action so that the interests of at-risk children and their families might be protected. Senator Bob Menendez also deserves credit for announcing that he will co-sponsor a bill to block Bush's effort to limit enrollments in the hugely successful State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), which helps finance the New Jersey FamilyCare program.
At issue are new rules the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services imposed to make it harder for progressive-minded states like New Jersey to offer government-subsidized health coverage to families earning more than the federal poverty level, but still not enough to buy insurance on their own.
The new rules would require New Jersey to make families wait a year after they lose coverage before they can apply for reentry into the program. The state also would need to prove that 95 percent of children in the lowest income groups were enrolled before accepting any children in what are considered to be middle-income groupings.
There are an estimated 254,000 uninsured children in New Jersey, according to a report released September 12 by Families USA, a national consumer advocacy group. Those numbers would rise if the Bush administration succeeds in keeping its new rules in place. FamilyCare is providing medical coverage to 122,000 children, including 28,000 who would have been disqualified if the new income rules had been in effect when they were admitted to the program.
The Bush administration is worried about the costs of the federal program - currently $5 billion. That may seem like a lot of money, but it pales in comparison to the $200 billion the administration is pouring into a losing war effort in Iraq each year.
President Bush needs to get his priorities straight. Instead of recklessly spending taxpayer money on a war effort that is claiming American lives, he should marshal prudent resources for the S-CHIP program so we might do a better job of ensuring healthy lives for children in New Jersey and all across our nation.
Assemblyman Brian Stack