It's been a little over three years since Gov. Chris Christie made the choice to expand Medicaid in New Jersey under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, a decision the Republican would later face criticism over as he prepared to run for president in 2016.
But Christie said Monday during a news conference in Trenton that, since that time, well over half a million more New Jersey residents have now enrolled in a health care plan, including 128,870 adults that have maintained their eligibility because of the Medicaid expansion decision and another 101,644 adults and children that were previously eligible but not enrolled.
NJ Family Care, the state’s publicly funded health care program, now has some 1.7 million beneficiaries.
According to Christie, New Jersey has also benefitted fiscally from the move by decreasing the state’s overall share of expenditures from 45 percent in 2014 to 39 percent last year. And despite a population increase, the average cost per beneficiary dropped from $9,690 in fiscal year 2014 to $8,940 the following fiscal year.
Christie said that, with the expansion of Medicaid, state residents have seen better access to a variety of offerings, including substance abuse treatment, women’s health services and smoking cessation programs.
For the critics of Christie’s decision back in 2013, the governor said the results show they have now been “proven wrong.”
One of the effects of Medicaid expansion has been reduced charity care in the state, which has been used for those who don't qualify for Medicaid, such as undocumented immigrants. This poses a problem in the state’s regions that have high immigrant populations.
Betsy Ryan, CEO and president of the New Jersey Hospital Association, shared her thoughts on the expansion and its effects on charity care.
“Medicaid expansion was the right move for New Jersey, and we applaud the governor and the Legislature for making it happen. We’re making progress, but there’s much more to be done,” she said.
“Medicaid payments from the state only cover about 70 percent of the costs hospitals incur in caring for beneficiaries. And we still have approximately 617,000 New Jersey residents without health insurance, including roughly 500,000 undocumented immigrants who do not qualify for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act," Ryan said. "That’s why the state’s charity care program and the services of our hospital safety net remain so vital even post-Medicaid expansion. According to the most recent state data, N.J. hospitals deliver $745 million in charity care services, valued at the actual costs of providing the care, and for that they will receive just $302 million in payments from the state. We can’t continue to drain from that program without seriously impacting our hospitals and the services they provide. The need for charity care hasn’t gone away in New Jersey."