Archive for December, 2009

Healthcare Reform and New Jersey

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Healthcare Reform and New Jersey

As you may know, the Senate is currently debating healthcare reform.  The many amendments that are pending each require 60 votes to pass. We’ve all witnessed much debate and questioning on this topic, what we aim to do here is breakdown some of the key issues as well as, discuss what reform would mean in New Jersey.

First, a new report from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) shows that healthcare reform bill could be a cost savings for many. According to a recent White House Blog, the bill could add years to the life of Medicare, lower costs for seniors and slow the rate of healthcare cost growth. Specifically, the report speculates that it can extend the life of the Medicare trust fund by nine years. In regard to their statement about saving seniors money, CMS reports that by 2019, the bill would save seniors nearly $700 per couple, reducing premiums by more than $300 per year and out of pocket costs by another $370 per year. CMS also predicts that as savings from reform kick in national health expenditures are projected to increase at a slower annual rate.

Some of the other areas that experts have indicated additional cost savings in are injecting accountability, competition and choice into the system through the insurance exchange; giving providers incentives to coordinate care; and transforming Medicare payment policies to reward quality of care (not quantity).

That leads us to the “exchange”, otherwise known as the public option. Some say the insurance exchange is a key element in providing coverage to the currently uninsured and making insurance more affordable for those who buy coverage on their own. Simply stated the exchange would be an entity that offers a choice of plan in an organized and competitive market. The exchange could also establish some common rules regarding offering and pricing of insurance coverage and provide the consumer with information to help them understand what is available. Much controversy surrounds the idea of a public, government-run plan being included in the exchange, as amendments are made and voted on, only time will tell if this will be an option or not. A hope expressed by many, including New Jersey Representative Rush Holt, is that the exchange, with or without a government-run plan, will allow more Americans to access coverage that currently is not available to them. That may mean including income-based plans other than Medicaid for those that find themselves above the income guideline for that program, but still can’t afford commercial insurance coverage.

So, you may be wondering, what does that mean for New Jersey? According to the Employers Association of New Jersey (EANJ), 95% of the state’s businesses employ 50 or fewer employees; this represents nearly 1.36 million people. Many uninsured adults are employed by small businesses that find healthcare too costly. Healthcare reform, specifically the “exchange”, would allow for those individuals to obtain affordable healthcare coverage.  EANJ also reports that healthcare premiums in New Jersey rose almost 5 times faster than wages in the past decade. If healthcare reform is able to create some rules and standards regarding the cost of coverage and companies abilities to deny coverage, perhaps this disparity would not be so great.

Lastly, Representative Rush Holt has done much to educate his constituents about healthcare reform; his website contains many links with information about the bills. Some of the statements regarding how New Jersey could benefit from the passing of healthcare reform are: improving employer based coverage, credits to help pay for coverage for households that are uninsured, allowing small businesses to obtain affordable health care coverage and providing tax credits to help reduce health insurance costs, improving Medicare, including closing the prescription drug donut hole and reducing the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and health care providers by $38 million.

Want more information? Have something to add or a question to ask? Please contact your Senator!

Frank Lautenberg

Robert Menendez

Please share your thoughts with us via the comment option below!

SNAP to it! Nutritional Supports can help!

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

SNAP to it! Food Stamps can help if you’ve got a limited income.

Many Americans are feeling the effects of the economy, some are applying for public benefits they never thought they’d need. One such benefit, the former Food Stamp program, now called, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps to feed 1 in 8 Americans. An article in the New York Times on November 29th, stated that SNAP reaches two thirds of those eligible and that another 15 to 16 million people could benefit nationwide. All across America the use of the program has increased due to job loss, reduced hours and increased expenses.

Last year, approximately 64,000 seniors in New Jersey benefited from SNAP (food stamps), knowing that 1 out of 4 NJ elders is living solely on Social Security ($14,285 per year) and that even a median retirement income of $19,565 for a elder man in NJ still leaves a gap between income and expenses, there are probably many more NJ seniors that are eligible for this program. The New Jersey Elder Index tells us that a single elder renter needs $25,941 to cover basic expenses. Applying for SNAP could ease the worry of trying to make ends meet.

SNAP eligibility is based on income, most guidelines apply to all age groups, however, seniors do have a few separate guidelines. SNAP defines a senior or elderly person as anyone age 60 years or older. In New Jersey, the gross income eligibility is 130% of FPL (Federal Poverty Level) and the net income eligibility is 100% of FPL. The2009 Federal Poverty Level for one individual is $10,830. Most households are limited to $2,000 in countable resources, such as a bank account, or $3,000 for those 60 years of age or older. Certain resources are not counted, such as a home and lot, the resources of people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and the resources of people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Those 60 years of age or older can also deduct medical and shelter expenses, hence the net income level. To see if you are eligible you can answer a few questions at http://www.mynjhelps.com/ or call your local Board of Social Services click here for a list of phone numbers.

To apply click the link below for information on how to obtain an application, where to go to apply and what you need to submit with your application. In some counties you may apply online, the link below will instruct you on this as well.

 http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dfd/programs/foodstamps/

SNAP is an important resource which may give you nutritional support while allowing you to cover your other basic expenses. Find out if you are eligible today. SNAP to it!