Support for a Bill to Educate Students About ‘Winter Celebrations’
By Thomas A. Arnone
During the Dec. 10 meeting of The Board of Chosen Freeholders, a resolution was passed regarding Assembly Bill 4481, which provides school districts with the option of educating students about the history of traditional winter celebrations.
The measure allows students, faculty and other staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations. Some examples of the traditional greetings would be Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays.
Furthermore, Assembly Bill 4481 also provides the option to allow a school district to display on school property scenes or symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations, including a menorah or a Christmas image such as a nativity scene or a Christmas tree; however, the scene must display a scene or symbol of more than one religion, or one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol.
In addition to holiday displays, the legislation provides that a school district may include musical selections with religious themes at winter or holiday programs if the winter or holiday program includes musical selections of more than one religion or one religion and music secular in nature.
I felt that this piece of legislation was something that was very important to bring back into our schools because it encourages the support of understanding the importance of individuals and families keeping with tradition.
Not only was I a strong supporter of this piece of legislation but I received the full support of the board, in particular my fellow board member, Freeholder John Curley.
Assembly Bill 4481, which allows school districts to teach about traditional winter celebrations, display holiday symbols on school property and include musical selections with religious themes, is legislation that I will continue to support in hopes of seeing those old family values and traditions restored to what they once were.
With the holidays come family gatherings, office parties, socializing with friends and year-end football game get-togethers. These are occasions each and every one of us looks forward to all year.
The Board of Chosen Freeholders wishes the residents of Monmouth County a very safe and happy holiday season.
Thomas A. Arnone is freeholder director of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
New Jersey’s Health Coverage Priorities
By Monmouth University Polling Institute
The Monmouth University Polling Institute and the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute have released their second “Health Matters Poll,” a periodic survey of Garden State attitudes regarding health care-related issues.
The current survey, which examines factors in health insurance decision-making, finds that the health care choice is a bigger consideration than cost for most New Jerseyans. Garden State residents are divided on whether they would give up some of their wages to get better health coverage or whether they would give up health benefits in order to increase their paychecks.
Most insured New Jerseyans (56 percent) say that the range of available doctors and services is more important to them in choosing a health care plan than the plan’s premium and co-pay costs (33 percent). State residents covered by government plans such as Medicare or Medicaid (63 percent) are the most likely to say that the choice of doctors and services is more important. Among those covered by an employer who provides a choice of plans, 53 percent say that the availability of doctors and services is more important than costs. Among those who purchase coverage on their own, 46 percent say that choice is more important compared to 38 percent who say that cost is more important in a health care plan.
“It is not surprising that New Jersey health care consumers care more about access and quality issues than they do cost, although cost is obviously a consideration” said David L. Knowlton, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. “There are few things more important to individuals than their own health and they want to be able to select physicians and hospitals they know and trust.”
The Health Matters Poll also asked New Jerseyans which is the more important reason to carry health insurance: To pay for normal expenses like checkups and prescriptions or to cover medical bills for severe illnesses and accidents. Unsurprisingly, most (70 percent) say that both reasons are equally important. However, when pushed to pick the more crucial reason, 68 percent say it is to cover illnesses and accidents compared to 28 percent who say that having coverage for normal preventive expenses is more important.
Among those who purchase insurance in the marketplace on their own, 81 percent say that the main reason to have coverage is for illnesses and accidents compared to just 12 percent who say that having coverage for preventive expenses is more important. Among parents of children under age 18, a total of 38 percent say that having coverage for everyday medical expenses is more important. This is greater than the 23 percent of non-parents who feel the same. Still, majorities of parents (58 percent) and non-parents (73 percent) alike say it is more important to have health insurance coverage for major medical bills than for preventive care.
Half (50 percent) of New Jerseyans get their insurance coverage through an employer, and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of this group report that their employer provides a choice of different plans. About 1-in-4 (24 percent) New Jersey adults get insurance coverage through a government plan, 6 percent purchase insurance coverage on their own, and 5 percent are covered by their parents’ plan or at school. Another 13 percent report that they do not have coverage.
Among New Jerseyans who do not have government provided health coverage, 48 percent say that they would prefer to have more comprehensive health benefits at the expense of lower wages while 42 percent say that they would sacrifice health benefits for higher wages. Among those who currently purchase health coverage on their own, 61 percent would give up some of their wages to get better health benefits. Among those who currently carry no coverage, 50 percent would stick with higher wages over health benefits. Among New Jerseyans who earn less than $50,000 a year, 64 percent say they would give up some wages in order to get better health coverage. This compares to 46 percent of those earning $50,000 or more who feel the same.
Among New Jersey residents under the age of 65 who get health coverage through an employer, 49 percent say they would accept lower wages for better health benefits and 44 percent say they would accept fewer health benefits to earn higher wages. Garden State views differ from national opinion on this. A Kaiser Health Tracking Survey conducted in June 2013 found that 53 percent of Americans under age 65 with employer coverage wanted higher wages at the expense of better health benefits compared to 39 percent who said they would prefer to give up some wages in order to get more comprehensive health coverage.
“The fact that working New Jerseyans are more willing than other Americans to give up some pay in order to get better health coverage is an indication of the burden posed by health care in this high-cost state,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
The survey asked about six different factors that go into choosing a health insurance plan, and found, unsurprisingly that all six are considered important to at least 3-in-4 New Jerseyans. Focusing on those who say these factors are “extremely” important, the poll found that just under half (44 percent) say that being able to see the doctors they want without paying more is extremely important to them in a health insurance plan and 42 percent say that having a plan that covers a wide range of services is extremely important. These findings are similar regardless of the type of insurance plan (government, employer, or self-purchased) or other demographic characteristics such as age or income.
About one-third or more insured New Jerseyans say that the following are extremely important elements in a health plan: Having a plan that is easy to understand and requires minimal paperwork (37 percent), having a low monthly premium (35 percent), and having low co-pays when they visit a doctor (33 percent). One-in-four (24 percent) say that the insurance provider’s reputation is extremely important to them.
Residents who purchase insurance on their own (53 percent) are more likely than those with coverage provided by an employer (37 percent) or the government (36 percent) to say that having an easy- to-understand plan with minimal paperwork is extremely important to them.
There are no significant group differences on the importance of monthly premiums, but employer-covered residents who have no choice of plans (39 percent) are somewhat more likely to consider the cost of co-pays to be extremely important when compared to employer-covered residents who have a choice of plans (27 percent). Also, insured residents who earn less than $50,000 a year (42 percent) are more likely than those who earn $50,000 or more (29 percent) to consider co-pay costs to be an extremely important factor.
An insurance provider’s reputation is slightly more important to residents who purchase insurance on their own (33 percent) than it is to those who have employer provided coverage (25 percent) regardless of whether they have a choice of plans or not.
The Health Matters Poll also found that Garden State opinion of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has become decidedly negative since September.
Currently 40 percent of New Jerseyans have a favorable view and 50 percent have an unfavorable view of the health care reforms. This represents a reversal of the 45 percent favorable to 40 percent unfavorable opinion recorded three months ago.
Still, Garden State views on the ACA remain somewhat more positive than national opinion, which was measured at 33 percent favorable to 49 percent unfavorable among all Americans in a Kaiser Health Tracking Survey conducted in November.
This survey was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in partnership with the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute from Dec. 4-8 with a statewide random sample of 802 adult New Jersey residents, including 602 via live interview on a landline telephone and 200 via live interview on a cellphone.
Two River Moment
Daniel W. Dorn Sr., who founded Dorn’s Photo Shop in 1938, is greeted by his then-4-year-old granddaughter Kaitlin 26 years ago at a Lion’s Club Christmas party. Kaitlin had no idea it was her granddad. Dorn Sr. served as president of the organization for a year. He died in 2004 at 93.