New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Tuesday his state would expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a move that will bring roughly 300,000 residents into the program next year.
Christie, an outspoken critic of the law, joins seven other Republican governors who have agreed to expand the low-income insurance program, one of the key tenets of the ACA. The law expands Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, a little more than $15,000 for an individual, but the Supreme Court decided last June that states could choose whether or not to expand.
"These people are consistently among those who need help the most," Christie said in his budget address Tuesday, "men and women who have suffered trauma in their lives, live with mental illness, rely on New Jersey’s emergency rooms for primary health care needs, or those citizens who lack insurance or access to treatment."
Christie had declined to create a health insurance marketplace under the law and is one of the final governors to announce a decision on the Medicaid expansion. In total, 24 governors have said they will accept the expansion, while 14 have said they won't, according to tracking by the Advisory Board Company.
Under the law, the federal government will pay for 100 percent of the costs of the expansion through 2016, with the match gradually declining to 90 percent. The Kaiser Family Foundation projected that New Jersey would spend an additional $3.4 billion on the expansion by 2022, while federal spending there would jump by $19.8 billion.
That deal, it appears, was too good for Christie to pass up. He repeated the line, which has become popular among GOP governors accepting the expansion, that rejecting it would mean New Jersey tax dollars would be spent elsewhere.
He also alluded to a 'trigger', another theme among the Republicans who have endorsed the expansion, indicating that New Jersey will pull out of the Medicaid expansion if the feds drop their pledged funding match in future years.
"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," Christie said. "I will make all my judgments as governor based on what is best for New Jerseyans... If that ever changes because of adverse actions by the Obama Administration, I will end it as quickly as it started."