Report: Nearly 177,000 Uninsured Workers Could Obtain Coverage If NJ Expands Medicaid — Thursday, January 10, 2013

By David Levinsky
Staff writer

[RELATED LINK: To read the report referred to in this article CLICK HERE]

Having a job doesn't guarantee anyone health insurance coverage. In fact, the majority of New Jersey's more than 1 million uninsured residents are gainfully employed in jobs in the construction, landscaping, retail and food industries, which typically don't provide health benefits or enough pay to afford private coverage.

A report released Wednesday by the liberal-leaning think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective finds that nearly 177,000 of the state's estimated 700,000 uninsured working adults would become eligible to obtain coverage from Medicaid if Gov. Chris Christie opts to expand the state-run program with additional federal funding provided by the health care reform law.

The report analyzed U.S. census and employment data and found that the 177,000 eligible people include 26,810 restaurant workers, 20,490 construction workers and 8,970 landscapers. It also highlighted that 84 percent of landscapers, 69 percent of dry cleaner employees and 65 percent of janitors lack health coverage.

"These are hardworking people who have paid into the program like the rest of us," said Dena Mottola Jaborska of New Jersey Citizen Action, a nonprofit advocacy group that is pushing for the program's expansion. "These people build our houses, cut our lawns, care for our children and make our food. We rely on them."

Medicaid is a state-run insurance program for the disabled, elderly and poor that the federal government helps fund. Under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, eligibility for the program would be raised in 2014 to 138 percent of the poverty level, or $15,414 a year for a single adult and $26,344 for a family of three.

But the U.S. Supreme Court decided the expansion must be optional in its summer ruling upholding the reform law, and so far, only 16 governors have announced expansion plans.

Christie hasn't announced a decision yet, but he expressed some reluctance last summer, noting that previous governors had already expanded the state's Medicaid program to cover many poor and disabled residents.

The Republican governor has also twice vetoed legislation sent to him by the Democratic-controlled Legislature that would have established a state-run health care exchange, in which residents could shop online or phone for approved insurance plans, including federally subsidized ones.

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