NJ extends health coverage to all children, regardless of immigration status

An additional 16,000 children can now get health coverage regardless of their immigration status, Governor Phil Murphy said Wednesday at an event highlighting the state’s expansion of its Medicaid program on Jan. 1.

The expansion is the latest phase of the “Cover All Kids” initiative intended to provide access to health care to all New Jersey citizens under the age of 19. The Department of Human Services, which oversees Medicaid, has allocated $11 million in the budget to pay for the initiative.

“This is not only the right thing to do morally, but it’s the right thing to do for the future health of our state in all the forms that health takes,” Murphy said at a news conference in Morristown. “Plus, investing in regular and consistent health coverage is an investment in peace of mind.”

The initiative was launched in July 2021. By the end of 2022, the Department of Human Services had enrolled more than 47,000 children, many of whom were accessing health insurance for the first time, Murphy said.

To be eligible, families must be earning less than 355 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $8,210 a month for a family of four.

Applying for the state Medicaid program, NJ FamilyCare, will remain the same for newly eligible children, as will insurance coverage, regardless of the claimants’ immigration status, said Sarah Adelman, Commissioner of the Department of Human Services.

Individuals may also call 1-800-701-0710 to complete their application with a Care Services Coordinator, or search online for face-to-face assistance.

Adelman touted the state’s efforts to remove barriers to “obtaining and maintaining coverage.” The state eliminated premiums for children and eliminated a 90-day waiting period for coverage that left people unprotected while waiting.

Adelman also highlighted partnerships with the Treasury Department to use tax return information to reach families with uninsured children and with the Department of Education to identify uninsured students during enrollment.

Of 3.5% of the children were uninsured in New Jersey in 2021, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“The way we care for our children reflects our values ​​and is a fiscally responsible decision because investing in children’s health, especially primary care, pays dividends over their lifetime. It makes our families and communities healthier and stronger,” Adelman said.

Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) spoke on Wednesday about taking her daughter to the doctor for a sore throat.

“Then I get into the lens of a woman in my neighborhood, who doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t have access to health care, might not have the $10 in her pocket for the ticket. She ends up in the emergency room and what does she do? she said. “It’s basically not about making our children healthy in the long run.”

Ruiz spoke in Spanish, informing Latinos without healthcare that now is the time to apply and invest in their health.

Amy Torres, executive director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, noted that families seeking to immigrate often have to save money for expensive naturalization applications or DACA renewals. As access to insurance expands, Torres said, health care costs are one less thing migrant families need to worry about.

“Racial disparities continue to persist in New Jersey, and by providing coverage for our children in these early years of their lives, we are making strides to begin addressing these gaps,” Torres said.

The job isn’t done, Torres added, as future governors are duty ensure the program continues to receive funding as immigrant communities grow.

Murphy has hinted that similar programs will appear in his budget proposal, which he is expected to unveil in early March.

“You can bet this commitment to the health of every New Jersey child will be written in black and white,” he said.


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