New Jersey Governor Christopher Christie. (Photo credit MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/GettyImages)
Kelly Kennedy, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie became the second Republican governor in a week to opt to expand Medicaid today as part of the 2010 health care law.
Christie, who announced the expansion during his state budget address in Trenton, N.J., said he was "no fan of the Affordable Care Act," which echoed the other Republican governors who recently accepted millions of dollars in federal help.
"While we already have one of the most expansive and generous Medicaid programs in the nation, including the second-highest eligibility rate for children, we have an opportunity to ensure that an even greater number of New Jerseyans who are at or near the poverty line will have access to critical health services beginning in January 2014," Christie said.
Like Republican governor Rick Scott of Florida, Christie said that not accepting the money would mean it would simply be spent somewhere else, and New Jersey taxpayers would lose out while another state received their federal taxes.
Several studies have shown that states accepting Medicaid could actually make money or see an increase in health care jobs. Christie said New Jersey would save $227 million in 2014 alone, and a study by New Jersey Policy Prospective, a non-partisan policy research group, found that New Jersey could save $2.45 billion over the next nine years if the state participates in the expansion.
"Medicaid expansion will not only improve New Jerseyans access to affordable health care, it will improve our economic health as well," said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J. "With all of New Jersey's pressing needs right now, it is assuring that this assistance will help us to devote more resources toward building our economy and creating jobs."
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Mike Pence of Indiana said last week they won't expand Medicaid, leaving nine Republican governors now to make a decision.
Scott's announcement that he would expand Medicaid came after a report from Families USA that showed expansion would create 71,300 jobs by 2016, and a Georgetown University study that found the state would save about $300 million in 2014. Another study from Colorado State University found that Colorado would increase economic activity by $4.4 billion and create at least 22,388 jobs if it expanded Medicaid.
Still, Christie couched his announcement by saying that state spending had gone down since he became governor and that the government had shrunk by 5,200 state employees.
He used his speech to take a swipe at the federal government and said the Capitol needs leaders and bipartisanship.
"It seems to me our leaders in Washington, D.C., could learn from our example here," he said. "Their failure to take on the nation's budget challenges and address the unsustainability of the nation's long-term liabilities is nothing short of inexcusable."