By David Cruz
One could call the timing of Gov. Chris Christie’s Medicaid announcement convenient, coming as it does at the beginning of an election year in a blue state where Medicaid expansion is a popular idea. But the governor, no fan of the Affordable Care Act, says the expansion — and the 100 percent federal reimbursement — is good for New Jersey, or he wouldn’t have risked the wrath of the right and changed his mind.
“Accepting these federal resources will provide health insurance to tens of thousands of New Jerseyans, help keep our hospitals financially healthy and actually save money for New Jersey taxpayers. In fact, taxpayers will save approximately $227 million in fiscal year 2014 alone,” the governor said in his annual budget address.
Estimates are that as many as 300,000 New Jersey residents who were not previously eligible for Medicaid insurance — or are but don’t know it — will be coming onto the rolls in 2014; great news for New Jersey’s hospital industry.
“Any time you infuse an additional level of money like the amount the governor spoke about yesterday in his address it’s going to be a benefit to the industry,” said Senior VP for Government Relations & Policy with the New Jersey Hospital Association Randy Minniear.
The expansion is mostly the result of an inclusion of childless adults, those people who may be working but earning at around 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
“The 133 percent of the poverty level is roughly $25,000 for a family of four, and approximately $15,000 for an individual, so if you’re talking about childless adults, you’re talking about an individual who makes on average $15,000 a year and that’s obviously a difficult way to live especially in this state,” he added.
Some expansion advocates — like Gordon MacInnes of Policy Perspective — say the governor’s decision amounts to an economic stimulus of at least $1.5 billion a year with little state taxpayer contribution.
“It will represent a pretty impressive jolt to New Jersey’s economy,” said MacInnes. “It’s difficult to be precise, for example the number of jobs that might be created by this. We’re not putting a number on it but it will have a major impact and it will be felt across the state.”
The health care industry already employs about 140,000 people across the state and pumps almost $20 billion into the state’s economy. But a big part of this economic impact will be dependent on educating patients.
“We want to make sure that people who need preventative care or primary care are not using the emergency room for that purpose, obviously, so some of that is consumer education and outreach, which we do on a regular basis now,” said Minniear.
The hope being that an educated consumer ultimately means health care savings for all of us in the long run.