Governor Christie Will Expand Medicaid in New Jersey

Governor Chris ChristieThe Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, has announced that he will accept federal funding to expand the Medicaid program in his state. You can add him to the list of Republican governors who are adamantly opposed to the Affordable Care Act but who have decided to expand Medicaid anyway. Governor Christie said his decision is not a “philosophical shift”.

Suddenly, a bunch of Republican governors who have clearly stated their objections to the entire Affordable Care Act are changing their minds about at least one portion of it. They are deciding to take the federal money to expand their state’s Medicaid program.

Reuter’s notes that Governor Chris Christie’s decision makes him the 8th Republican governor to expand his state’s Medicaid program. Previously, we saw Governor Jan Brewer choose to expand Arizona’s Medicaid program, and Governor Rick Scott decide to expand Florida’s Medicaid program (temporarily, and with several stipulations).

In December of 2012, Governor Christie vetoed a bill that would have allowed New Jersey to create a state-based health insurance exchange. This happened on the same day that the Governor was visiting the White House for the purpose of asking for tens of billions in federal recovery aid to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. When Governor Christie appeared on the Jon Stewart Show, he said that he felt there was a difference between asking for disaster relief and setting up a health insurance exchange.

Governor Christie recently spoke about his intent to expand New Jersey’s Medicaid program in his annual budget address to the Legislature. He said that he would accept the federal funding that states can use to expand their Medicaid program, and noted that the expansion would provide health insurance to 104,000 of the poorest 1.3 million uninsured residents of New Jersey.

He also emphasized that this decision was not a “philosophical shift”. Instead, he described it as a financial decision.

He said that if New Jersey did not take the money that the federal government would give that funding to other states. I believe that this argument is one that other Republican governors have used to explain why they have now decided to expand their Medicaid programs. Governor Christie said:

Let me be clear: I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act. I think it is wrong for New Jersey and for America. I fought against it and believe, in the long run, it will not achieve what it promises. However, it is now the law of the land. I will make all my judgements as governor based on what is best for New Jerseyans.

Image by Bob Jagendorf on Flickr