N.J. Governor Says Expansion is “Smart Thing to Do for Our Fiscal and Public Health”
Today’s budget address is full of red meat for media pundits and policy wonks to pull apart, Save Jerseyans, but the political consequences of Governor Chris Christie’s controversial Medicaid expansion decision (one that other GOP governors including Ohio’s Kasich and Florida’s Scott also made) could be far-reaching. Trenton Democrats are happy with it but unsurprisingly restrained. Some conservatives are naturally livid. If Christie does run in 2016, expect this decision to make its way into more than one primary advertisement.
So in that spirit, let’s listen to his full explanation:
Click here to read the complete text of his prepared remarks; his Medicaid-specific remarks are below the fold:
Ensuring a quality education is one means of creating opportunity for the state’s most vulnerable populations. Another is ensuring adequate quality health care.
New Jersey is a leader in the nation in reforming our Medicaid program. Last year the federal government approved our innovative and strategic reform proposal, which does right by the people the program is designed to serve. We have taken groundbreaking steps to ensure high-quality, cost-effective and comprehensive health care for New Jerseyans by focusing on controlling costs, promoting community-based care, preserving hospital funding and integrating primary and behaviorial health care.
For example, as a result of our reforms, instead of having the standard Medicaid program that forces seniors into nursing homes as the only option when they need long-term care, our seniors will now have a choice. They will be able to stay in their homes and communities while receiving the services and support they need.
It’s simple. We are putting people first.
Which is why, after considerable discussion and research, we have decided to participate in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. While we already have one of the most expansive and generous Medicaid programs in the nation, including the second highest eligibility rate for children, we have an opportunity to ensure that an even greater number of New Jerseyans who are at or near the poverty line will have access to critical health services beginning in January 2014.
For a single adult, 133% of the poverty level is under $16,000 a year. These people are consistently among those who need help the most – men and women who have suffered trauma in their lives, live with mental illness, rely on New Jersey’s emergency rooms for primary health care needs, or those citizens who lack insurance or access to treatment.
Expanding Medicaid will ensure New Jersey taxpayers will see their dollars maximized. Federal funding will cover 100% of the costs of this expansion for the first three years and then leveling to 90% in 2020.
Let me be clear, refusing these federal dollars does not mean that they won’t be spent. It just means that they will be used to expand health care access in New York, Connecticut, Ohio or somewhere else. Accepting these federal resources will provide health insurance to tens of thousands of low-income New Jerseyans, help keep our hospitals financially healthy and actually save New Jersey taxpayers money. In fact, taxpayers will save approximately $227 million in Fiscal Year 2014 alone.
Let me be clear, I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act. I think it is wrong for New Jersey and for America. I fought against it and believe, in the long run, it will not achieve what it promises. However, it is now the law of the land. I will make all my judgments as governor based on what is best for New Jerseyans. That is why I twice vetoed saddling our taxpayers with the untold burden of establishing health exchanges.
But in this instance, expanding Medicaid by 104,000 citizens in a program that already serves 1.4 million, is the smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health. If that ever changes because of adverse actions by the Obama Administration, I will end it as quickly as it started.
Even without the Affordable Care Act, we have continued to work to provide health care to the uninsured, including many thousands of low-income children through New Jersey family care. This budget continues that effort by providing a $47 million increase for family care.