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On March 1, 2012, I released a statement applauding the defeat by the Senate of "the Blunt amendment" which would have given limitless and unprecedented license to any employer or insurance plan to exclude any health service to any American for any reason, based on undefined religious or moral convictions. The amendment would have put not only vital preventive care services, such as access to contraception, mammograms and prenatal screenings at risk for nearly 630,000 women in New Jersey, but also potentially lifesaving services such as blood transfusions, vaccines and prescription medications.

The defeat of this amendment is a resounding victory for women over another cynical, dangerous attempt by some in the GOP to deny their health care services. Make no mistake: This was never about freedom of religion. It was about turning back the clock on decades of progress that’s been made for women’s health care. And in the process, they tried to give any employer the right to deny any care to any person for any reason. They lost. And hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans will continue to make their health care decisions with their physicians – as they should.

According to the Department of Human Health and Services, an estimated 628,000 women in New Jersey could have lost access to preventative care under the Blunt amendment. But, the amendment wasn’t limited to women. In total, it is estimated that last year, nearly 2 million New Jerseyans benefitted from at least one free, preventive screening, such as a colonoscopy screening for colon cancer, well-child visits, flu shots and more, from their insurers. If Senator Blunt’s amendment was passed, those nearly 1.7 million New Jerseyans could have seen their preventative health care screenings – or any other health care service – taken away at the whim of their employer. For New Jersey families, the stakes couldn’t have been higher:

449,000 NJ Children (0-17): Coverage includes regular pediatrician visits, vision and hearing screening, developmental assessments, immunizations, and screening and counseling to address obesity and help children maintain a healthy weight.

628,000 NJ Women (18-64): Coverage includes cancer screening such as pap smears for those ages 21 to 64, mammograms for those ages 50 to 64, and colonoscopy for those 50 to 64; recommended immunizations such as HPV vaccination for women ages 19 to 26, flu shots for all adults, and meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccinations for high-risk adults; healthy diet counseling and obesity screening; cholesterol and blood pressure screening; screening for sexually-transmitted infections and HIV; depression screening; and tobacco-use counseling. Starting in August 2012, additional preventive services specific to women, such as screening for gestational diabetes and contraception, will be covered by new health plans with no cost sharing.

617,000 Men (18-64): Coverage includes recommended immunizations such as flu shots for all adults and meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccinations for high-risk adults; cancer screening including colonoscopy for adults 50 to 64; healthy diet counseling and obesity screening; cholesterol and blood pressure screening; screening for HIV; depression screening; and tobacco-use counseling.
(Above is a sample of the services now available without any cost-sharing. Note that this is not an exhaustive list of covered services and is only meant to highlight several examples.)

Under the Affordable Care Act many insurance plans are now required to provide free coverage for certain recommended preventive health services. The Blunt Amendment would allow any corporation or health plan to deny access to these services, for any reason. Data comes from the Department of Health and Human Services: http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2012/PreventiveServices/ib.shtml


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