New Jersey expanded Medicaid in accordance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), utilizing federal funding to provide health insurance for the newly-eligible population starting in 2014.
As a result, New Jersey’s total Medicaid enrollment increased by nearly 36 percent (462,581 people) between the fall of 2013 and October 2016. Total Medicaid enrollment in New Jersey as of October 2016 stood at nearly 1.75 million people. Through the end of 2015, New Jersey’s uninsured rate dropped by 35 percent, compared with where it was at the end of 2013.
New Jersey Medicaid and the Trump Administration
The incoming Trump Administration has vowed to repeal the ACA and replace it. Although Republican lawmakers have set the ball rolling on the repeal process before Trump takes office, they have not yet coalesced around a replacement for the ACA.
There are concerns that federal Medicaid funding could be cut under the Trump Administration, as House Republicans have called for a transition to block grants or per-capita allotments. Consumer advocates note that either option would result in fewer federal dollars for state Medicaid programs, particularly those that have expanded Medicaid under the ACA and benefitted from the enhanced federal matching called for in the ACA (for New Jersey’s population that was already eligible for Medicaid prior to 2014, the federal matching rate is only 50 percent, but for those newly eligible for Medicaid under the ACA’s expansion, the federal government paid 100 percent of the costs through 2016, and is now paying 95 percent of the costs).
A New Jersey Policy Perspective report warns that 528,000 people in New Jersey (about ten percent of the non-elderly population in the state) could lose their health coverage if Medicaid expansion is eliminated. This includes the 480,000 people who have gained coverage as a result of Medicaid expansion in New Jersey, but it also includes additional people who were eligible for Medicaid in New Jersey prior to 2014 under Medicaid waivers that the state has negotiated with CMS. Those waivers have since expired, which didn’t matter once the ACA’s Medicaid expansion was in place. But if the ACA — including Medicaid expansion — is repealed, those people wouldn’t be able to retain their Medicaid coverage anymore.
If the ACA is repealed, nearly two-thirds of the adults who would lose access to Medicaid have jobs or are in a household where someone has a job (ie, they might be the staty-at-home parent, while the other parent works to support the family). These are the people who work in the service industry, construction, home health care, retail, and the education system. They are vital to our economy and our lives, but their employers often don’t provide coverage (or they might be in the family glitch), and their income just isn’t high enough to purchase health insurance, particularly in a high cost-of-living state like New Jersey.
For the time being, nothing has changed. Medicaid eligibility rules remain just as they have been since 2014, and enrollment continues year-round. But Medicaid enrollees need to keep an eye on the repeal and replace process that’s unfolding in Washington DC, and reach out to their elected officials to express concerns they might have about ACA repeal.
Who is eligible?
In addition to the aged, blind, and disabled, the following New Jersey residents are eligible for Medicaid:
- Adults with incomes up to 138 percent of poverty
- Children with household incomes up to 350 percent of poverty are eligible for CHIP in New Jersey. This is one of the most generous thresholds in the country.
- Pregnant women with incomes up to 200 percent of poverty (unchanged from 2013).
How do I apply?
In New Jersey, all Medicaid coverage – including previously eligible populations as well as the population that is newly eligible under the Medicaid expansion guidelines – is handled by NJ Family Care.
The NJ Family Care website also has paper applications that can be downloaded, although they strongly encourage online applications. They can be reached by phone at 1-800-701-0710 if applicants need assistance.
The decision to expand Medicaid
New Jersey was one of five states that opted to partially expand Medicaid well ahead of the 2014 state-date that most states used. In New Jersey, childless adults with incomes up to 23 percent of poverty were able to start enrolling in Medicaid in April 2011 (as noted above, the expiration of previous waivers allowing this is part of the reason the loss of coverage in New Jersey would exceed the number of people who have newly become eligible for Medicaid under the ACA).
This is still a very low income (as of 2016, 23 percent of poverty level was just $2,732 in annual income for a single person), but it’s better than nothing — more than half of the states provided no health coverage assistance at all to low-income adults without children prior to 2014, and there are 18 states that still provide no assistance to childless adults living in poverty.
In February 2013, Governor Chris Christie agreed to accept federal funding for full Medicaid expansion, and later that year he signed a budget that included $227 million in federal Medicaid expansion funds.
But Christie’s acceptance of Medicaid expansion hinged on a provision that the state would only continue to offer expanded Medicaid as long as the federal government maintains its promise to always pay at least 90 percent of the cost of covering the population eligible under the expansion guidelines.
In June 2013, Christie vetoed a state bill that would have made Medicaid expansion permanent regardless of any future changes in the federal funding rate, and NJ’s Medicaid expansion is still contingent on continued federal funding. Many other states have adopted similar provisions in their Medicaid expansion agreements.
In early 2014, Governor Christie said that he was “proud” of the state’s decision to expand Medicaid, but emphasized that more needed to be done to control costs in the $12 billion NJ Medicaid program.