First published by Susan K. Livio on NJ.com
TRENTON — The majority of New Jersey voters believe insurance should cover birth control supplies and Planned Parenthood should continue receiving Medicaid reimbursement for family planning and other women’s health services, according to a poll released by Rutgers University Wednesday.
The poll lands at a pivotal time in state and national politics. Garden State voters will pick a new governor and state lawmakers in the fall. And behind closed doors in Washington, the U.S. Senate is cobbling together legislation President Trump is expected to sign that will set aside the Affordable Care Act.
The American Health Care Act, the bill that recently passed the House, strips funding for Planned Parenthood for a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office review of the bill.
And the Trump administration is poised to change Obama-era regulations to make it easier for employers with religious objections to reject contraceptives as a covered service under the ACA’s preventive care requirements, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
These changes would be out of step with what most New Jersey voters across the political spectrum believe, according to the poll.
The poll found:
* 65 percent said they held a favorable view of Planned Parenthood, 17 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion, another 17 percent said they had no opinion and 1 percent said they did not know.
* 84 percent said they supported the federal Medicaid program paying for contraception and other health services Planned Parenthood’s provides, while 16 percent said they were opposed. The poll question contained the statement that federal law prohibits coverage for abortion services — something that 86 percent did not know.
* Three-quarters said they support the ACA requirement that private insurance plans bear the cost of birth control. If employers refuse on religious grounds to offer the benefit, 42 percent said the insurance company should pay the tab, 34 percent said it is the woman’s responsibility and 21 percent said the federal government should absorb the cost.
* 94 percent said they don’t think insurance companies should be allowed to charge women of child-bearing years more than men for coverage. Similarly, 95 percent said preventive health services like cancer screenings should remain 100 percent reimbursed.
Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, which released the poll with Rutgers’ Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, said the poll should remind elected officials to consider the will of their constituents.
“These are the issues on the front page and in the media every day — contraceptive coverage and insurance benefits…Planned Parenthood and whether it should be allowed to provide services (paid for by) Medicaid. These are really important issues we know are being considered by Congress, the state Legislature and discussion by the (gubernatorial) candidates,” Schwimmer said.
“It’s important for them to know where New Jersey registered voters stand,” she said.
In the governor’s race, Democrat Phil Murphy signaled his interest in women’s health issues by announcing the day after he won the June 6 primary election he he would restore the $7.5 million in annual state funding for family planning clinics Gov. Chris Christie eliminated seven years ago. He also accused his rival, Republican Kim Guadagno of being complicit in Christie’s actions as his lieutenant governor.
Eagleton borrowed some of the poll questions used in a national poll by Kaiser Health, said Ashley Koning, the polling director and an assistant research professor.
“New Jersey voters’ attitudes on women’s reproductive health largely reflect views nationwide,” Koning said. “Opinions about coverage requirements, funding for low-income women, and of Planned Parenthood moreover often cut across partisan lines in New Jersey, with support spanning a wide range of demographics.”
The poll is based on responses from 605 New Jersey registered voters, and has a margin of error plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.