Advocates Urge Christie To Accept Medicaid Expansion

The Record ( — Monday, February 25, 2013

By Anthony Campisi

Governor Christie should accept billions of federal dollars to expand the state's Medicaid program during his budget address Tuesday, a coalition including consumer and health care advocates, religious organizations and minority groups urged.

The money, provided under the federal health care overhaul, would save the state $2.5 billion over nine years, said Ray Castro of the New Jersey Policy Perspective, a progressive think tank.

"This is a very good deal for our state," he said at a Monday news conference. "New Jersey is actually going to do better than most states."

Expanding Medicaid would help the state pay for the cost of coverage of thousands of New Jerseyans currently enrolled in state health insurance programs like New Jersey Family Care, Castro added.

A key part of the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama in 2010, the Supreme Court allowed states to turn down the money in its ruling upholding the main part of the law last year.

The federal government will pay all of the cost of Medicaid expansion – which would cover up to 300,000 New Jerseyans – for three years beginning in 2014. Afterwards, states would be responsible for 90 percent.

So far, 22 states have accepted the Medicaid expansion and 17 have rejected it, said Dena Mottola Jaborska of New Jersey Citizen Action, who called it "one of the most important things we can do in New Jersey to fix our broken health care system."

Christie, who vocally opposed the health care law, hasn't yet announced whether New Jersey will participate in the expanded program. He's declined to establish a state-run health exchange, another major provision of the law. The federal government will instead run the state's exchange.

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