Empowering our community on health, long-term care

Empowering our community on health, long-term care

With the passage of health-reform legislation, one of the few issues regarding health and long-term care remaining for Congress is one that is central to our mission: ensuring that New Jersey’s Medicaid program remains resilient. This is particularly important during today’s serious economic downturn.

The Medicaid program represents the most important government program for your agencies. It is an income-eligible program for the neediest in our communities and is funded through a federal/state partnership. Medicaid pays for care in your community’s nursing homes as well as family-service agencies, which provides care to children, families, people with disabilities, and older adults.

There is no question that New Jersey’s Medicaid program has fallen victim to a vast array of budget cuts that have affected services it can offer those who are in need of them. Medicaid enrollment increases when the economy declines. This requires states and municipalities to spend more money at a time when they have less revenue and strained budgets.

Local Jewish agencies have suffered as a result of these cuts. Therefore, it is vital that volunteer leaders within the Jewish community reach out to officials at all levels to ensure that this key funding stream is protected in order for our community to carry out its overall mission to those who are in need of services.

The most immediate way you can assist us is to join our efforts to protect Medicaid funding for New Jersey. There is no doubt that this will help your agencies cope with the increased demand for services. The federal share of Medicaid is currently at 65 percent for the Garden State. That means that 65 cents of every Medicaid dollar comes from the federal government. Unless Congress intervenes, at year’s end New Jersey will take at least a 15 percent cut in Medicaid funding (the state usually receives just 50 cents on each dollar). The state will not be able to afford to make up the difference and, frankly, neither will your federation or its agencies.

Our community must act now and ensure that Congress extends protections so that Medicaid funding flows undisturbed to states that are saddled with increasing costs and allows them to continue the program without cutting eligibility or services to those who are most in need of them. Congress is considering legislation, The American Workers, State and Business Relief Act of 2010, that calls for an extension of these enhanced funds through June 30, 2011. This continuance will be essential for Medicaid providers as states weather these difficult fiscal times.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey can advise you on how you can best help regarding outreach. Our advocacy action alerts, all personalized for New Jersey, include innovative ways that you can reach out to your elected officials as well as other community leaders to ensure the success of these two vital programs for our community.

Now is the time that our community needs to show leadership on these issues. Jewish-Americans are the fastest aging demographic in North America. Why? Out of all minorities surveyed, we are living longer and there are fewer young people who can take care of us. In the past, our community has made a profound impact on issues concerning Israel and Soviet Jewry, and even helped raise awareness about abuses in remote regions such as Darfur. Medicaid funds are pivotal to the work we do here at home.