Source: NJ Spotlight
New Jersey has a strong track record of supporting progressive reproductive healthcare policies, but access to contraception, abortion and other services remains a challenge for too many women, especially those who are poor, nonwhite, gay or transgender. Those are among the findings in a report published last week by the New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP).
Authored by Jazmyne McNeese, a graduate student at Rutgers University in Camden and a Kathleen Crotty Fellow at NJPP, her report credits the state’s efforts to date, but notes protecting and building on these gains is particularly important given Republican-led efforts to reduce care and coverage.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said heis proud of the restoration of family planning funds by governor Phil Murphy allowing for five new programs to open and enabled others to add staff, new programs and more hours. But despite these successes, the report notes that there are still “many outstanding issues” that require attention in New Jersey, including ensuring the inclusion of historically marginalized groups.
The report advocates expanding access to and insurance coverage for contraception. While former NJ governor Christie signed a bipartisan bill requiring insurance companies to cover up to six months of birth control pills at once, McNeese said extending this to a full year — something already done in at least a dozen other states.
Protecting and growing abortion services is also critical, McNeese notes. One in four women in New Jersey does not live in a county with an abortion provider, the report says, and many counties have only one family planning services option. For those facing travel challenges or limited time off from work, this can be a problem. Also, Facilities face costs and other operational burdens unusual for most healthcare providers, such as providing clinical staff, housekeeping and contracting services as well as 24-7 security against potential violence and abortion protestors.
While insurance plans generally cover abortion, cost can be an issue due to high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. Three out of four women pay for the procedure out of pocket, the report notes. “For uninsured or under-insured individuals who wish to end a pregnancy, the cost of care can be out of reach,” McNeese writes.
To help address this funding shortfall, the report calls for the state to increase what it pays for abortion services through Medicaid. “Simply put, Medicaid reimbursement rates for abortion care have not kept pace with medical care costs and certainly do not account for the complex challenges faced by abortion providers,” McNeese notes. She also advocates expanding Medicaid coverage to undocumented immigrants in New Jersey, as six other states have done.
“New Jersey’s record of advancing reproductive health policy — while better than most states — has yet to fully address barriers faced by those who need these services the most,” McNeese reports. “Now is the time to protect and expand reproductive freedoms here in New Jersey. Making the well-being of all children a priority would provide long-range health and social savings to the state.”