Governor announces health-care expansion


Gov. Jon S. Corzine speaks at the press conference announcing a program that offers low-cost health insurance to children, at the Woodbridge Center Mall on Dec. 19. PHOTO COURTESY OF TIM LARSEN FOR THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR Gov. Jon S. Corzine speaks at the press conference announcing a program that offers low-cost health insurance to children, at the Woodbridge Center Mall on Dec. 19. PHOTO COURTESY OF TIM LARSEN FOR THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR WOODBRIDGE- Beginning Jan. 1, all New Jersey children will have access to affordable health insurance, according state officials.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine and state Sen. Joseph F. Vitale (D-19) announced the final piece of the New Jersey Family Care program in Tiny Town USA, the soft play area for children at the Woodbridge Center mall, on Dec. 19.

The two state dignitaries were joined by Mayor John E. McCormac; Jennifer Velez, state Department of Human Services commissioner; Steven M. Goldman, banking and insurance commissioner; Karen Clark, president and chief operating officer of Horizon NJ Health, a Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey company; Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan (D-18); Assemblyman Samuel D. Thompson (R-13); the Rev. Bruce Davidson, Lutheran Office of GovernmentalMinistry, and Dr. BobMorgan.

“A few years ago, I was sitting in the Child [Advocate] Office and we were asking ourselves how we could reform the NJ FamilyCare Program, which was already a good program,” said Vitale, who is the prime sponsor of the legislation. “We all believed that every child has the fundamental right to be examined and knew we could do better … children are the state’s best asset.”

Through the existing FamilyCare Program, children whose family income currently exceeds eligibility guidelines will now be able to enroll in the program for a monthly fee. The program currently is limited to lowand moderate-income families.

Under the new “buy-in” provision of the NJ FamilyCare program, children in families whose annual family income exceeds current eligibility limits – $72,275 annual income for a family of four (350 percent of the federal poverty guidelines) – can enroll in the program.

These children will receive the same services available to NJ Family- Care recipients, such as coverage for doctor visits, prescription drugs, and hospitalization.

“We understand the importance for our children to receive their eyeglasses, their inhaler, etc.,” said Vitale. “This [buy-in provision] will provide a new comfort to families who would have never been possible to get health insurance.”

Corzine estimated that 80,000 uninsured children who fall in the category where their family income exceeds the current eligibility limit would qualify for FamilyCare. It is estimated that as many as 15,000 of those uninsured children may enroll in the program.

The program is said to be budget neutral for the state and is not dependent upon the State Children’s Health Insurance Program [SCHIP] funding. Families must pay the following monthly premiums: $137 for a family with one child, $274 for a family with two children, and $411 for a family with three ormore children.

Corzine said the costs are significantly lower than private health insurance premiums, due to lengthy negotiations and the state’s purchasing power with insurers like Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“We have enrolled more than 100,000 children in the NJ FamilyCare program since I took office, and today we are expanding access to this critical and successful health insurance program with a new “buyin” programthatwill provide every family in New Jersey with an affordable health-care option for their children,” said Corzine. “Healthier children will mean a healthier New Jersey.”

There are a few restrictions to the “buyin” program: families with more than one child must enroll all children, and families must demonstrate that their children did not have health care coverage for the previous sixmonths.

“There are simply too many children in New Jersey without health care insurance,” saidVelez. “This is an incredible gift…some NewJersey families are strugglingwith purchasing food and gasoline, paying rent, and health care … for some families, this is the best present this season and will give families some peace ofmind.”

Davidson told the crowdwho gathered at themall that when he spoke to families who have been waiting for programs like this, they expressed not only great gratitude, but surprise.

“They were surprised that the government would find a way to partnership with an industry to help the families that are just on the edge,” he said.

Corzine and Vitale said they would continue to work toward universal health care coverage for the entire state.

Enrollment will begin in January. More information will be available on theHorizon Health Care of New Jersey Web site next month,

For more information on the NJ Family- Care program, or call (800) 701-0710.