Source: NJ Spotlight.com
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy plans to invest at least $50 million — much of it in new funding — on programs to help vulnerable women access reproductive health care, including contraception, delivery services and insurance coverage for up to a year after they give birth.
Most of the maternal health proposals slated for new or additional funding were included in a strategic plan released in January by Nurture NJ, an advocacy coalition championed by First Lady Tammy Murphy.
These proposals include more than $15 million more than was spent this year to support contraceptive, prenatal and delivery services for individuals without access to health insurance; $8.5 million to extend certain Medicaid coverage for up to a year after delivery; and $2 million to create a rental-assistance program for vulnerable pregnant moms, according to administration officials who spoke on background with NJ Spotlight News in advance of the governor’s speech. Another $450,000 is proposed to create a registry for community doulas, carefully trained birth coaches that have proven to improve birth outcomes.
Emphasizing a previous pledge
New Jersey generally spends more than $40 billion annually thanks to major revenue sources like the income, sales and corporate-business taxes. Murphy’s new budget comes at a time when the state’s tax-revenue outlook has brightened compared to just a few months ago, when the governor and lawmakers decided to hike several taxes and issue billions in new debt to offset what were then projected to be steep revenue losses triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. The state could also be in line to receive another big infusion of federal relief thanks to a nearly $2 trillion aid bill that’s being discussed in Washington, D.C.
Funding for the women’s health initiative was increased the following year and had more than doubled by fiscal year 2020, when the state invested $19.5 million in the program. The money — which supplements federal dollars — is distributed through the nonprofit New Jersey Family Planning League to dozens of community clinics statewide, just over half of which are operated by Planned Parenthood. The money pays for cancer screenings, family planning services, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and more, but is prohibited by federal law from covering abortions.
The governor also plans to propose a change — which would require federal approval — to the state’s Medicaid program to enable it to cover health care costs for certain women who would not otherwise qualify for the subsidized insurance, for up to a year after they give birth. New Jersey already expanded Medicaid to enable women who earn up to 200% of the federal poverty limit — an annual income of less than $25,800 for one person, or $44,000 for a family of three.