In 2021, Governor Murphy announced the Cover All Kids initiative, a set of policies and actions aiming to ensure universal health insurance coverage for all New Jerseyans 18 years old and younger. Now, a year later and with budget season underway, lawmakers and advocates must act to make sure the next steps of this initiative are prioritized and fully implemented.
To achieve universal coverage, leaders must identify and actively address all current barriers to health care. At the beginning of the initiative, more than 80,000 New Jersey children remained uninsured. For these children, the main obstacles to coverage included difficulties with the enrollment process, coverage eligibility, and affordability of existing coverage options.
In FY 2022, the Department of Human Services focused on reducing obstacles for the estimated 53,000 uninsured children who were already eligible for coverage through NJ FamilyCare (New Jersey’s program for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP), but were not enrolled because of the costs of CHIP premiums, a 90-day waiting period for children who were voluntarily removed from employer insurance, or because their families were unaware they were eligible.
These efforts have been successful so far, with an additional 26,000 New Jerseyans under the age of 21 enrolled in NJ FamilyCare since last June. Yet there are still tens of thousands of children still awaiting affordable coverage options, including undocumented children who are currently ineligible for coverage through both NJ FamilyCare and GetCovered NJ (New Jersey’s health insurance marketplace), children whose families are eligible for private health coverage but cannot afford the premiums, and children who face both of these obstacles.
With so many children still facing significant obstacles to coverage, state lawmakers must prioritize funding and implementation for the initiative’s next steps. Governor Murphy’s FY 2023 budget proposes $11 million in funding to expand NJ FamilyCare eligibility to an estimated 16,000 children who are ineligible for NJ FamilyCare due to immigration restrictions, starting January 1, 2023.
This funding promotes a promising investment in children’s health, yet more can still be done to lower barriers to care. With an estimated 36,000 children waiting for affordable health insurance options, the state must prioritize sufficient funding and urgent implementation of the Cover All Kids initiative so all kids have the affordable, high-quality health care they deserve.