Report calls for measures to expand coverage, including permanent expansion to immigrants and automatic enrollment to reduce coverage gaps for eligible individuals
Trenton, NJ – May 31, 2023 – New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA) and Make the Road New Jersey (MRNJ) today released one of the most extensive Medicaid surveys to date, based on in-depth interviews with 2,973 Medicaid recipients, 501 from New Jersey. 2.2 million NJ residents, or 23% of the state population, are enrolled in Medicaid, but the report found many eligible New Jerseyans struggle to enroll in and maintain Medicaid coverage, and when enrolled struggle to access the services they need.
During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), Congress passed legislation requiring Medicaid programs to keep people continuously enrolled, and as a result the number of Medicaid enrollees in New Jersey grew from 1.7 million pre-pandemic to 2.2 million in 2022. With Congress terminating the PHE on May 11, 2023, New Jersey must act quickly to remove barriers to coverage if the state is to prevent the loss of nearly 300,000 residents’ Medicaid coverage.
The report makes several recommendations to improve coverage, including: automatic enrollment in Medicaid to reduce gaps in coverage, and expanding access to coverage to adults, regardless of immigration status. In New Jersey, adult immigrants with a green card are still barred from receiving Medicaid for their first five years of lawful permanent residency, creating a significant gap in coverage.
“Almost 70% of survey respondents are satisfied with their coverage, but the data also showed us that there is still more work to do to increase access, availability, and quality of Medicaid services,” said Laura Waddell, NJCA Health Care Program Director. “Medicaid access is hugely important to millions of New Jerseyans, especially now as we will begin to see the first population of NJ FamilyCare disenrollments take effect. NJ must continue to do what it can to strengthen Medicaid for our low-income and most vulnerable residents.”
The report also found that more than 1 in 3 NJ respondents were not aware that they will need to renew their enrollment when the PHE ends, suggesting hundreds of thousands are at risk of losing their coverage. More than two thirds of respondents (68.6%) were mostly or completely satisfied with the quality of care they receive through Medicaid, and many described how important Medicaid coverage has been for them and their families.
“My kids have Medicaid but I’m ineligible. My children have been able to go to their primary care provider regularly for preventative care, and this has been a great help to my family. There’s no way we can afford to see a doctor without Medicaid, because we are low income. I am afraid that their health coverage will end now that the public health emergency has ended. My hope is that Medicaid can be expanded to all immigrants like myself,” said Victalina Abrego, member of Make the Road NJ and a participant in the study.
Despite the majority satisfaction with Medicaid coverage, many residents described significant hurdles enrolling, renewing, and receiving care. 1 in 4 respondents in New Jersey reported challenges applying for Medicaid coverage, such as long waits, not understanding how to apply, and Medicaid agency offices being closed when they visited. 16.7% of respondents reported experiencing challenges when renewing their coverage, such as income no longer meeting the eligibility requirements. Nearly 1 in 3 NJ respondents reported challenges accessing services with their Medicaid coverage, such as difficulty finding a provider that accepts Medicaid and has available appointments.
The national report, entitled “Strengthening Medicaid: Challenges States Must Address as the Public Health Emergency Ends”, along with the New Jersey state survey profile, were written in partnership with People’s Action Institute, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), and Make the Road New Jersey. 2,937 Medicaid recipients were surveyed nationwide, with 501 from New Jersey. This report comes just weeks after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency on May 11 and as Congress negotiates a federal budget that could cut funding for key programs and initiate work requirements for Medicaid recipients. Congress set March 31, 2023, as the end date for the continuous Medicaid enrollment provisions and will phase down federal funding through December 2023. States that accepted the funding can now resume disenrollments starting this month.
Make the Road New Jersey builds the power of immigrant and working class communities to achieve dignity and respect through community organizing, the provision of legal and support services, transformative education and policy innovation.