By Katie Garfield (CHLPI Clinical Fellow, JD ‘11)
On Thursday, February 5, New Jersey took an important first step towards the goal of providing key diabetes services to its Medicaid beneficiaries. In a hearing session, the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee of the New Jersey legislature approved the text of Assembly Bill 3460. If passed, this bill will improve diabetes care for vulnerable populations in New Jersey by providing Medicaid coverage for diabetes self-management education (DSME), the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), medical nutrition therapy (MNT), and expenses for supplies and equipment for the management and treatment of diabetes.
Several diabetes advocates, including Stephen Habbe (Advocacy Director, Northeast, American Diabetes Association (ADA)), Francine Grabowski (Program Manager, Cooper Diabetes Education Center; Lead Diabetes Educator, Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers) and Michael Johnson (Director of Association Initiatives, The Gateway Family YMCA) testified in support of the bill. These advocates explained that, each year, diabetes takes a dramatic financial ($5.4 billion in medical costs and $2.4 billion in indirect costs) and personal toll on New Jersey. These advocates therefore urged the committee to support the inclusion of DSME, DPP, and MNT in the state’s Medicaid program as critical evidence-based diabetes interventions. Committee Chairman and bill sponsor, Assemblyman Herb Conoway Jr. also expressed strong support for the bill and its potential to reduce costs while extending the lives of individuals living with diabetes.
After hearing this testimony, the committee approved the bill to be passed out of committee almost unanimously (11-1). The bill has therefore moved on to the next step in the legislative process—consideration by the Assembly Appropriations Committee—where it will hopefully meet with equal success.
As highlighted in Stephen Habbe’s testimony, this legislation seeks to address some of the coverage gaps identified in the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation’s New Jersey PATHS report. We are therefore very excited to see the bill pass this first legislative hurdle, and we will continue to provide updates on its progress through New Jersey’s State House.