New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reneged his prior opposition to state Medicaid expansion Tuesday, saying he’ll support the initiative in his state. The change of heart makes him the eighth Republican governor in the past few months to change stance on the expansion offered by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), close on the heels of a similar announcement on Feb. 21 by Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
Christie reviewed the state’s healthcare reforms during today’s state budget address: “We have taken groundbreaking steps to ensure high-quality, cost-effective and comprehensive health care for New Jerseyans by focusing on controlling costs, promoting community-based care, preserving hospital funding and integrating primary and behavioral health care,” he said. “As a result of our reforms, instead of having the standard Medicaid program that forces seniors into nursing homes as the only option when they need long-term care, our seniors will now have a choice. They will be able to stay in their homes and communities while receiving the services and support they need.”
But Christie made no attempt to backpedal on his previous opposition to the ACA: “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,” he said. “But in this instance, expanding Medicaid by 104,000 citizens in a program that already serves 1.4 million, is the smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health.”
Sarah Kliff, political writer for the Washington Post, comments: “The quick succession of governors to come out in favor of this part of the Affordable Care Act suggests that, when it comes to the Medicaid expansion, the lure of federal dollars may trump anti-Obama politics. When you look at the deal that the states are getting, it’s pretty easy to see why. The federal government will spend an additional $800 billion on Medicaid under the healthcare law to cover all those earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty line (about $15,000 for an individual). In return, the states only need to put up an additional $8 billion of their own money.”