Murphy to announce health care for undocumented children in budget address

By: - March 8, 2022 1:01 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy delivering his second inaugural address in Trenton on Jan. 18, 2022. (Amanda Brown for New Jersey Monitor)

Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to announce an $11 million plan to provide health care for thousands of undocumented children in his budget address Tuesday afternoon, the New Jersey Monitor has learned. 

The initiative would be an expansion of his “cover all kids” pledge, which he made in his budget speech last year. More than 26,000 residents under the age of 21 have been added to the state’s Medicaid program since then, state officials say.

“Through this budget, we will continue to support our ‘cover all kids’ initiative that is ensuring that every child in New Jersey has access to health care,” Murphy is expected to say during the address, scheduled to start at 2 p.m.

The children would be enrolled into NJ FamilyCare, the state’s Medicaid program. It’s not clear what the sign-up process would be if the Legislature includes the plan when it finalizes the budget later this year.

Most undocumented residents are typically not eligible to purchase health care plans made available under the federal Affordable Care Act, and have limited access to health care services.

It’s unknown how many children who are currently ineligible due to immigration status would benefit from the proposed NJ FamilyCare expansion. Advocates estimate the number could exceed 20,000. 

A Murphy administration official said they are confident the funding will pass, characterizing it as a small appropriation. Last year’s budget was about $48 billion.

Murphy had planned to allow undocumented children to enroll in NJ FamilyCare last year, but the language of the bill was revised before he signed it. According to NJ Spotlight News, migrant children were excluded because lawmakers who were up for re-election did not want to be on record voting to fund health insurance for undocumented residents with public dollars. All 120 legislative seats were up for grabs in November.

Over the last year, NJ FamilyCare has eliminated the 90-day waiting period for children to access Medicaid and premiums in the Children’s Health Insurance Program for families making less than 350% of the federal poverty income level, or about $6,400 each month for a family of three.  The state has also done targeted mailing to community partners, food pantries, libraries, laundromats, family planning centers, and other faith-based and immigrant advocacy community groups, said DHS spokesman Tom Hester.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.