With the start of American Heart Month, the American Heart Association New Jersey is proud to announce several legislative victories that Association volunteers played a role in securing.
The 2018-19 legislative session ended in mid-January. Throughout the 2-year session, local volunteer advocates supported priorities that included improving stroke care in New Jersey, ensuring that tobacco treatments are covered through Medicaid, and requiring insurance coverage for preventive screenings for a number of cardiovascular conditions. Many of our volunteers took action and we are excited to report that all 3 were signed into law!
The American Heart Association worked for several years to secure improvements to the stroke system of care in New Jersey. The new law will require that stroke centers be certified by an outside accrediting body. Emergency medical services providers will also be required to develop a plan to quickly treat and transport stroke patients to the most appropriate facility. This new law has the potential to save lives and improve outcomes for patients by ensuring that they receive the care they need quickly.
The other two laws address access to prevention services. Medicaid beneficiaries smoke at a much higher rate than the overall population. Making all FDA-approved medications and counseling available with no cost-sharing and barriers will save lives and could result in significant cost savings as well. Medicaid expenditures for smoking related illnesses top $1 billion each year in New Jersey.
Finally, there are a number of preventive services that the US Prevention Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends. Their list includes a number of screenings for cardiovascular conditions. When chronic diseases and risk factors for these diseases are detected early, they are easier to treat and, in some cases, can be reversed. This law preserves the requirement that the services on this list be covered by insurance.
The efforts to pass these laws were hard-fought. While we celebrate these successes, we acknowledge that there is still work to do and we will continue to advocate for heart health.
A new legislative session has begun, and it brings new opportunities for us to engage with our elected officials. We encourage you to take a moment to reach out to your lawmakers, especially if you know they are newly elected, to introduce yourself and let them know that you will continue to promote policies to improve health for all in New Jersey.
If you’d like more information about advocating for heart health in New Jersey, visit yourethecure.org.
Senior communications director for the American Heart Association in New Jersey, Lehigh Valley and Northeast PA. Dedicated to being a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.