Family Voices Testimony on the Family Health Care Coverage Act
Family Voices is a national grassroots network
speaking on behalf of children with special healthcare needs. We are also involved with Covering Kids at the N.J. Hospital
Association and their advocacy subcommittee.
We support the proposed Family Health Care Coverage Act and believe
it is essential to address the estimate of the Association for Children of
New Jersey that only 1/3 of eligible children are enrolled in FamilyCare.
Many years ago, we were honored to be invited to then
Gov. Whitman’s signing of FamilyCare, which included expansion to
include adults. At that time,
NJ was in the forefront nationally by raising eligibility to 350% of the
poverty level. Studies
indicate that families use one source of healthcare for all members.
When recent budget cuts caused loss of benefits for adult family
members, the children for whom SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance
Program) was originally intended to cover also lost out.
When adults have health coverage, their children will as well.
Of particular concern to us are underserved families
(Hispanic and African American) identified at the N.J. Hospital
Association statewide conference. Results
for these families indicated disparity in both being uninsured and poorer
health outcomes. Children and
adults with medical issues who were uninsured fared much worse. For example, an uninsured child born with heart disease may
not be diagnosed until age 4 compared with a child who has insurance,
resulting in a condition which was treatable becoming life threatening.
An uninsured adult with cancer many times remains undiagnosed until
stage IV, at which point it is terminal.
Treatments for the uninsured are then more costly since the disease
is not caught in the initial stages.
Most importantly, there are increased mortality rates for the
uninsured. Not only is it
more cost effective, but it is the ethical thing to do.
We support the elimination of the many obstacles to
enrollment identified by advocacy groups including Covering Kids, ACNJ,
and our own Family to Family Health Information & Resource Center,
including language barriers and the bureaucratic enrollment process as
well as re-enrollment which affects retention.
A new statewide school outreach pilot program identified many
families who were already eligible, yet needed to re-enroll for benefits.
The re-enrollment application was reviewed and simplified but the
pilot showed more revisions were needed.
The passive re-enrollment mentioned in the Family Health Care
Coverage Act will eliminate this barrier.
The pilot program also uses a simplified initial application, which
appears more successful than the original form.
We support the notion of coordinating with school lunch programs
statewide and coordination with non-public schools as well.
A universal application card for various benefits
will also assist families to navigate various systems (e.g. food stamps).
We also support collaboration with Rutger’s University to develop
a revised, simplified form. The new proposal of online applications and will further
simplify the process and increase enrollment of parents and children.
Presumptive eligibility for families will assist them as well as
the hospitals that provide charity care; uninsured families often use the
emergency room as their regular source of care, again when it is more
costly and the health condition has become more serious.
We strongly support the “buy-in” for families over income
eligibility limits, similar to the proposed national Family Opportunity
As NJ Coordinator for Family Voices, I receive
approximately 1500 contacts per month.
Many parents who had no insurance for their children have had to
quit their jobs and go on welfare to get Medicaid; this is especially true
for children with special healthcare needs who have extensive medical
issues. The Family Health Care Coverage Act will restore lost
benefits to vulnerable adults. This
in turn will also increase enrollment of eligible children if families
have a single source of health care coverage.
There will also be a positive economic impact on providers, as more
providers are accepting Medicaid since the introduction of Medicaid
managed care, which also increases access for families.
Thank you for this opportunity to comment and support the Family
Health Care Coverage Act.
Lauren Agoratus, M.A.
NJ Coordinator-Family Voices