More than 175,000 working adults in New Jersey would have health care coverage
if Medicaid is expanded, according to a report released Wednesday by New
Jersey Policy Perspective and New Jersey for Health Care Coalition.
People working in low-wage jobs, such as waiters, landscapers and home health workers, could be among those who would qualify for medical coverage under the plan, according to the report. Many of these workers earn minimum wage, are refused full-time hours so their employers don't have to offer health insurance, or work for small businesses that aren't required to provide medical coverage, the report said. Most wait until they are severely ill, then seek treatment in hospital emergency rooms, relying on state-funded or hospital-paid charity care.
Expanding Medicaid is an option states have under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Under the proposal, residents earning below 138 percent of the poverty line -- individuals making $15,414 and a family of three with a $26,344 annual income in 2014 -- would qualify for coverage.
Governor Christie has given no indication whether he will implement the expansion. There is no deadline for when states must decide; they can opt in at any time, but the uncertainty could affect the state budget process.
Proponents of the expansion say it's a good deal for states because 100 percent of the costs for the first three years will be covered by the federal government. States will then gradually pick up some of the costs until 2020, when they would fund 10 percent. Currently, the state match is 50 percent.
Opponents to the plan say it will ultimately cost the state money it can't afford and won't help residents.
"Medicaid is a broken and costly system, and adding these individuals to the system will make the problems even worse," said Nicole Kaeding, state policy manager with Americans for Prosperity. "And 60 percent of doctors do not accept new Medicaid patients."
Further, Kaeding said, the cost to New Jersey once the state is responsible for 10 percent of the costs will amount to $1.5 billion.
But the authors of the report from New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal think tank in Trenton, said the state will receive $10.7 billion in the first five years from Medicaid funds. This will, in turn, create new jobs, especially in the health care industry, they say.
Currently, 16 states have agreed to the expansion while 10 states have refused.
"The hardest-working people -- those who build our homes, take care of our children, cut our lawns and prepare our food when we eat out -- would stand to gain health care coverage under the Medicaid expansion," said Dena Mottola Jaborska, director of organizing for New Jersey Citizen Action.
The report estimates that 700,000 New Jersey working adults have no insurance but 176,970 would qualify for Medicaid because they meet the income requirements. If these residents received medical care through Medicaid, charity care costs, which amounted to a taxpayer-funded $994 million in 2011, would be reduced.
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