Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget: Expanding Health Care Coverage in New Jersey

18 May 2015 10:48 AM | Anonymous

For all the debate surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), one thing is certain; New Jersey is seeing great benefit as a result of its implementation. Take a look at the numbers:

  • 719,000 New Jerseyans have enrolled in coverage under the ACA, cutting the rate of uninsured adults across our state in half.
  • 254,000 have selected health plans through the new health insurance Marketplace; 8 out of 10 received financial assistance in the form of tax credits to help reduce their premium contribution.
  • 465,000 individuals have been enrolled in the Medicaid expansion.

Not only has ACA expanded coverage, but as this series has already pointed out the state has realized hundreds of millions of dollars in savings from reduced charity care and a significant increase in federal funds for the Medicaid expansion.

So what’s the problem?  Under the Governor’s budget proposal, just a sliver of these savings would be reinvested to shore up our health care system. But, instead of diverting these state dollars away from our health care system to plug gaps elsewhere in the budget as the Governor proposes, ACA and charity care savings should be used to support initiatives that will expand access to health care coverage and services to more low and moderate income New Jerseyans. 

Make no mistake, despite the progress we’ve made under the ACA, there is still much more that needs to be done. These state funds can (and should) be reinvested to help support initiatives that will expand access to health care coverage and services for the newly insured and those who remain uninsured across our state.  These include:

  • Increasing New Jersey’s Medicaid provider reimbursement rate – one of the lowest in the nation.  Doing so would leverage more federal matching funds and expand access to providers for the hundreds of thousands newly enrolled in the Medicaid expansion. 
  • Increase funds to boost staffing at the County Social Services agencies in meet the increased demand for application processing and case management services.
  • Subsidize reduced cost sharing for those in the Marketplace.  A recent Kaiser article reports that half of moderate income people (between 200-400% of FPL) are not able to pay the average deductibles and cost sharing required by Marketplace plans – An even bigger problem in NJ where the cost of living is so high.

Our work is not done.  There are still an estimated 500,000 eligible adults in New Jersey who remain uninsured.  We know cost remains a barrier to many low income New Jerseyans.  So, in addition to these measures, we are urging the administration to study the option of establishing a Basic Health Plan (95% supported by federal funds) that could extend coverage to individuals and families who make less than 200% of the federal poverty line, yet make too much to qualify for Medicaid. 

Getting coverage is just the first step.  We need to continue to build upon our enrollment success.  Put the money where it should be!  Let’s not stop working until every New Jerseyan has access to the quality, affordable health care they need and deserve.

By Maura Collinsgru, from New Jersey Citizen Action and the NJ For Health Care Coalition

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