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Christie touts health care record in Jersey City

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Following up his Medicaid expansion announcement during the annual budget address, Gov. Chris Christie visited the Metropolitan Family Health Network in Jersey City today to tout his health care policies for the uninsured and underinsured.

Christie announced funding for federally qualified health centers like Metropolitan Family Health — which serve as primary care providers for those without insurance — will remain level with the fiscal year 2013 budget. In October of last year, Christie announced $50 million in funding for New Jersey's 106 federally qualified health centers, the most ever allocated from the state.

"There's no doubt community health centers play a significant role in providing health care access to New Jersey families who need it most," Christie said at the event. "That's why our support remains at an all-time high, and with new programs being implemented, such as our Medicaid expansion, our ability to deliver preventative services will be even stronger."

The announcement comes after Christie became the eighth Republican governor to sign on to an expansion of Medicaid, a provision of the Affordable Care Act. The expansion is estimated to add more than 300,000 low-income New Jersey residents to the program, which could save the state $227 million in 2014.

"FQHCs are a critical element to the health care infrastructure for under-insured and uninsured New Jersey residents, said Jennifer Velez, commissioner of the Department of Human Services, at the event. "With the expansion of Medicaid, we are building on reforms to the program that were underway, emphasizing prevention and coordination of care so that clients get the services they need."

Kathy Grant Davis, president and CEO of the New Jersey Primary Care Association, said the organization was "delighted" its FQHCs will be receiving more funding, but added that the expansion of Medicaid will mean the centers will need to work harder to ensure there are enough providers at each location.

Christie also highlighted his administration's other policy victories at Metropolitan Family Health:

– The approval of a Medicaid waiver by federal government, keeping eligibility steady while moving many beneficiaries from the state program to privately-managed managed health programs.

– Expanding the FamilyCare budget by $6.4 million in fiscal 2014, to $122 million, for covering uninsured children.

– Preserving fiscal 2013's increase in funding for cancer screening, and increasing 2014 funding for newborn screening by $1.6 million.

Christie called Metropolitan Family Health an example of his administration's goal of providing "a comprehensive array of services for those in need in an efficient, effective manner."

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