Healthcare in New Jersey
When Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.
(adapted from Matthew 14:14)
Healing the sick isn’t about which political party you’re affiliated with. It’s about God’s compassion for humanity, a concern that touches all of God’s children. It is essential that we work together to ensure that all New Jersey residents have the access to quality healthcare that they deserve.
Healthcare advocacy is largely an issue of fairness and justice. New Jersey is ranked as one of the nation’s healthiest states—on average. But if you look more closely, you’ll see that the numbers mask significant differences in health across the state. For instance, just a few miles outside the city of Newark, life expectancy is 87.7 years, while in the city center, it is only 75.6 years.
Race is a big factor contributing to this and other health disparities. For women and babies of color, the statistics are dire. An African American mother in New Jersey is five times more likely to die than a white mother due to pregnancy complications, and an African American baby is three times more likely to die than a white baby in their first year of life. This is the widest racial disparity in the nation.
Other factors contributing to health disparities include income, gender, and education. Some are less apparent, like the distance from people’s homes to parks and grocery stores or the availability of public transit. The point is that many things beyond what might immediately be thought of as health play a major role in determining the health of God’s people.
So, what can we do to follow Jesus’ example of caring for the health needs of our neighbors?
1. We can improve maternal and infant health outcomes by enhancing care, support, and prevention for vulnerable communities. Two specific ways to do this are by a) increasing the number of community health care workers who can make house calls and b) providing cultural competency training for health care workers to build greater trust between the medical community and persons of color.
2. We can ensure that families are able to use the recently expanded Paid Family Leave benefit, particularly those supported by low-income workers. For this to succeed, enforcement protections need to be put in place by the Department of Labor so that workers are treated fairly.
3. We can boost the incomes of families supported by low- and moderate-wage workers to promote financial stability and economic opportunity. Income and health are inextricably intertwined, with poverty and poor health often going hand-in-hand. Policies that increase incomes and support families who are struggling with unemployment during this economic crisis can lead to improved physical and mental health.
4. We can improve access to high quality child care (available during the times of the day and night when low wage workers need it most) because dependable child care is essential for the healthy development of children.
5. We can manage the price of prescription drugs. The New Jersey legislature is currently working on establishing an advisory board to study and regulate drug pricing across the state. Here are the relevant legislative bills:
A2418 would establish a Prescription Drug Advisory Board (PDAD) tasked with developing a list of drugs for which manufacturers will be required to report certain information that would allow the board to determine whether the prices of those drugs are excessively high.
S234/A3049 will provide the board with authority to establish a maximum price for drugs meeting the state’s threshold.
A1477/S 1142 requires the board to study the entire pharmaceutical distribution and payment system in the state, and in other states and countries, for both the brand-name and generic markets. The board would then identify drugs that create affordability challenges and provide recommendations to the state legislature.
6. We can advocate for greater access to mental health care especially for underserved communities of color provided by culturally competent providers.
7. We can promote Get Covered New Jersey, the new state-based health insurance exchange that will increase affordable health care coverage options for many of the people in New Jersey who have suffered the most during the pandemic. Get Covered New Jersey will open for enrollment on November 1, 2020. State subsidies are available for those with incomes below 400% of the federal poverty level (annual income up to $51,040 for an individual or $104,800 for a family of four).
General Healthcare Information
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s Data Platform:
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s “Culture of Health” blog:
Advocates for Children of New Jersey:
Early Child Care, Education, and Development research from national research program Evidence for Action:
Racial Inequalities in Healthcare
“Unprecedented and Unequal: Racial Inequities in the COVID-19 Pandemic” from New Jersey Policy Perspective:
Healthcare and the Economy
“America Needs a Plan to Save Jobs and Save Lives” from Families USA:
"An Hour of Advocacy"
Interested in advocating for better healthcare in New Jersey? Join our monthly Zoom meeting by registering here.
The Healthcare Issue Table meets at 5:30 PM on the fourth Monday of every month.