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Legislators Urge Medicaid Expansion For NJ

Expansion Will Attract Up To $22 Billion in Federal Funds, Extend Coverage to At Least 234,000 Uninsured & Save Taxpayers With Reduced Uncompensated Care Costs

TRENTON – New Jersey should take advantage of the opportunity to extend health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of the uninsured by expanding the Medicaid program, said the sponsors of a legislative resolution urging participation in the newly-offered help from the federal government that was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on Monday.

Senator Joe Vitale and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said the expansion could bring up to $22 billion in federal funds over eight years, provide coverage to at least 234,00 of the uninsured and reduce costs for hospitals and the state for uncompensated care. A key component of the national health care reforms, the Medicaid expansion would be fully funded by the federal government the first three years and phased down over three years to cover 90 percent permanently.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Medicaid expansion saved lives and improved the health of newly-covered residents of states that expanded Medicaid.

“We have the opportunity to extend health care coverage to a significant number of people who can’t afford it or don’t have access to it,” said Senator Vitale, chairman of the committee. “This is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. It will save lives, improve the health and well being of many of the uninsured and provide immediate and long-term savings to hospitals and to the state.”

The state spent $675 million this year to partially compensate hospitals for unpaid bills, mostly for treating patients without insurance. This annual expense could be slashed in half, according to an analysis by New Jersey Policy Perspective, once Medicaid is expanded. Hospitals could realize additional saving with reduced charity care that isn’t now reimbursed.

“The expansion will draw billions of dollars to New Jersey from the federal government for the important purpose of health care for people who have long been denied,” said Senate Majority Leader Weinberg. “At a time of limited resources, New Jersey can’t afford to turn down this offer. This is an opportunity for us to get back a fair share of tax dollars that go to Washington.”

Senator Weinberg said the “health care disparity” that now disproportionately cuts off minority communities from access to needed medical treatment would be helped significantly by the expansion.

The health reform law increases Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, extending coverage to more than 15 million people nationwide, including at least 234,000 in New Jersey, according to a study by the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy. Most are childless adults – who constitute the largest segment of New Jersey residents who lack health insurance – who currently aren’t eligible in New Jersey.

A family of two with an income of $20,123 and a family of four with an income of $30,657 would be at 133 percent of the poverty rate, according to the Rutgers report.

A Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today showed strong public support for Medicaid expansion, as well as increased support for the Affordable Care Act following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision affirming the law’s constitutionality.

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