NJ Senators: Bush Budget Weakens New Jersey Health Care

NJ Senators: Bush Budget Weakens New Jersey Health Care

New Jersey Lawmakers Release Analysis ofBush Budget Impact on NJ Health Care System

Washington - U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today released their assessment of the Bush health care budget and its impact on New Jersey residents. The budget makes clear that providing access to comprehensive, affordable health care programs is not a top priority for this administration. Instead of putting resources into an already-strained health care system, the president is attempting to balance the budget on the backs of our nation' seniors and low-income families. It also allocates far less than what is needed to provide adequate health care to low-income children and undermines the future of State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as FamilyCare here in New Jersey.

"The president has decided to tighten his fist when it comes to health care solutions for our seniors, our children and our low-income families in New Jersey," said Menendez. "This is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing, I believe it is our job to invest significantly in solutions that will strengthen our health care system, and I will continue to make it a priority to help more New Jerseyans afford the health care they deserve."

"President Bush's cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other vital health care services are the wrong prescription for New Jersey. It hurts families and children who are already struggling to see a doctor and pay for the prescriptions and medical care they need. As a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees, I will fight to make this budget a better deal for New Jersey -- so our residents can get quality health care at an affordable price," Senator Frank R. Lautenberg said.

President Bush, in his budget, proposes cutting Medicare and Medicaid by $200 billion over five years. This is particularly troubling because more than 40% of New Jersey hospitals are facing financial difficulty. Any additional cuts could pose problems for the more than 1.2 million New Jersey Medicare patients that depend on these hospitals for their life-saving care.

The president's budget, among other things: reduces our ability to fund life-saving medical breakthroughs and eliminates funding for the Patient Navigator program, which coordinates care for people with cancer and other serious illnesses.

Additionally, the president wants to balance the budget on the backs of our children. Not only does he provide less funding than Congress proposed for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, he has also vetoed a proposal from Congress that would have provided 125,000 children in New Jersey to continue to receive health care coverage and allow an additional 100,000 children to gain health care coverage.

Sens. Menendez and Lautenberg, both members of the Senate Budget Committee, pledged to work within the Congressional budget process to ensure New Jerseyans are not shortchanged by President Bush.

President's FY2009 Health Care Budget:

Weakening health care access, quality and widening disparities

· Jeopardizing the Health Care of Our Seniors and Low-Income Families: The president's budget proposes cutting Medicare and Medicaid by $200 billion over five years, with 82% of that, or $178 billion, coming from Medicare. Specifically, the president proposes to cut $12.4 billion from Medicare next year. These savings would largely come from freezes in payments to doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. New Jersey hospitals stand to lose more than $246 million in 2009 and $2.6 billion over five years under these steep spending cuts.

· Leaving New Jersey's Low-Income Children's Health Coverage Out in the Cold: The President's budget proposal includes an additional $19.7 billion for SCHIP, short of the approximately $21.5 billion in addition that is needed to maintain coverage for children already enrolled. At this level of funding, not only would it be difficult to maintain current enrollment but it would be impossible for additional uninsured children to be added to the program. This proposal is in stark contrast to the reauthorization plan passed by Congress. Under Congress' reauthorization plan, 125,000 New Jersey children would have continued to receive vital health care coverage and 100,000 additional New Jersey children would have gained health care coverage. It is clear that the president does not prioritize children's healthcare as his proposal leaves us far short of Congress' plan to provide coverage to over 10 million children nationwide.

· Cutting Effective Health Programs: Federal funding for Medicaid family planning services would be cut by $570 million this year and $3.3 billion over five years under the Bush budget. It proposes to reduce the federal match for family planning services under Medicaid. This means that New Jersey could lose more than $18 million in Federal funding. This would result in a 400% increase in costs for New Jersey for these services.

· Reducing Our Ability to Fund Life-Saving Medical Breakthroughs: The Bush budget freezes funding for the National Institutes of Health at $29.3 billion, which would make next year the sixth year in a row that our nation's investment in life-saving research failed to keep up with biomedical inflation. The projected success rate for research grant applications would fall to the lowest level, 18%, since 1970.

· Leaving Our Nation's Food and Drug Supply at Risk: The Bush budget proposes to increase funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by $42 million which is barely enough to keep up with inflation. In addition, an FDA scientific task force found that the budget request represented less than 20% of the funding needed just to keep up with their current operations. This insufficient funding is clear evidence of the president's lack of commitment to keeping America's food and drug supply safe. Without proper protections and oversees inspections, New Jersey residents are at-risk of possibly tainted and harmful drug imports. Americans should to feel confident and safe when they take their medication or buy their groceries but the only way we can ensure this is to properly fund the FDA. Furthermore, New Jersey's pharmaceutical companies and their 65,000 employees depend on timely approval of drugs and devices by the FDA to keep the New Jersey economy moving. The president's budget paces the health of New Jersey's citizens and our economy at risk.

· Slashing Funding for Preventions Efforts: The President's 2009 budget surrenders the fight against chronic disease and obesity in America. Chronic disease programs at the CDC are cut by $29 million and the budget eliminates the Prevention Health Services Block grant, which helps New Jersey prevent and reduce the incidence of various health problems, such as childhood obesity, cancer, and lead poisoning. In New Jersey, 18 percent of sixth graders are overweight and another 20 percent are obese.

· Cutting Funding for Tobacco Control and Prevention: The President's budget cuts funding for successful tobacco control and prevention programs despite a recent report that found that smoking rates are no longer declining. More than 4,000 people died of lung cancer in New Jersey last year.

· Harming Proven Reproductive-Health Programs: The president's budget again requests a $28 million increase for Community-Based Abstinence Education, for a total of $137 million. Abstinence-only programs have been found to be ineffective and frequently use misleading and medically inaccurate information. The president also recommends no increase for the Title X family-planning program, which provides access to health care for low-income women. In New Jersey, more than 50 clinics rely on this funding.

· Providing Insufficient Support for Community Health Centers: Community health centers receive a meager 1% increase in this budget, which is intended for new centers in high-risk areas. However, the budget includes nothing for base adjustments to cover inflationary costs for existing health centers. Without these increases, the 19 community health centers in New Jersey may have to turn uninsured patients away.

· Lacking Support for HIV/AIDS Care and Prevention: The budget requests a less than 1% increase for HIV/AIDS care over this year and provides no increase for HIV/AIDS prevention. The lack of a substantial funding increase puts the health and well-being of the more than 48,000 HIV/AIDS patients in New Jersey at risk.

· Eliminating Key Screening and Outreach Program: The president's budget eliminates $3 million in funding for the Patient Navigator program, which coordinates care for people with cancer and other serious illnesses. The administration contends that this initiative would be ineffective or duplicate other government initiatives, but President Bush himself signed this bill into law. This is particularly shocking in light of the fact that models for this program have proven effective and show that expanding access nationwide would save lives and health care costs.

· Slashing Health Professions Training: Our public health workforce shortage is worsening, and this budget will only exacerbate that shortage. Instead of helping alleviate the nursing shortage, this budget proposes a 29% in funding to train nurses and completely eliminates health professions training for primary care and geriatric providers and programs aimed at diversifying the workforce. It is estimated that by 2020, New Jersey will have 50% of their nursing positions vacant because of the shortage.