HEALTH

What would it take to cover all New Jersey’s uninsured kids?

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

There are 78,000 children in New Jersey that are completely uninsured, according to a new report by the left-leaning think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective.

Ray Castro, the author of the report, says of that total about 17,000 are ineligible due to their immigration status; 15,000 are uninsured because they have an income that exceeds the eligibility level for both the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP, and the marketplace subsidies; and the remaining 46,000 kids are eligible for CHIP or Medicaid but not enrolled.

“We want to enhance outreach and have a very targeted effort, and try to find out why these kids are not participating,” said Castro.

The report highlights racial disparities in coverage. It finds nearly three-quarters of all uninsured children are children of color; 45% of the 78,000 uninsured children are Hispanic, 20% are black and 6% are asian.

“Many communities are very afraid and we have to make sure that we do what we can to educate them,” said Johanna Calle, executive director for the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.

“This sad reality is both a failure and an opportunity to do the righteous thing,” said Rev. Charles Boyer, executive director of Salvation and Social Justice.

The report suggests eliminating some of the barriers currently in place, like premiums for CHIP, which has some of the highest premiums in the country. They want the program to be similar to Medicaid, which does not charge them.

The second barrier highlighted is the 90-day waiting period before a child gets covered.

Sen. Joe Vitale, who was with his daughter, announced plans to draft legislation that addresses the report’s recommendations.

“We have always, always as a Legislature — whether Democrats or Republicans — have come together for the welfare of children, making sure they have access to affordable health care,” Vitale said.

“The bill would allow coverage for all children, regardless of income or immigration status. It allows for a buy-in so that parents that don’t have access to affordable coverage for their children would be able to buy into the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” said Maura Collinsgru, health care program director for New Jersey Citizen Action.

Castro estimates it would cost the state about $19 million to meet all the recommendations.