Despite recent polls that show Americans are just as protective of Medicaid as they are of Medicare, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is trying to gut the popular program in his state and prevent 23,000 people from receiving benefits. Christie has proposed cutting Medicaid eligibility to absurdly low levels: from the current maximum income of $24,645 to $5,317 a year for a family of three. Apparently, the governor believes a family of three making $6,000 a year is simply too rich to receive Medicaid.
The New Jersey press has reported that the main effect of his proposal would be to slash help for the working poor, tearing a huge hole in the state’s social safety net:
Adults in a family of three that makes as little as $103 a week would earn too much to qualify for health care provided by Medicaid under a sharply curtailed program Gov. Chris Christie wants the federal government to approve this year, according to state officials and advocates briefed on the proposal.[...]
The Christie administration is expected to propose cutting the maximum income level of Medicaid from $24,645 to $5,317 a year for a family of three [...]
“That is about a third of the poverty level,” Castro said. “That means that an uninsured parent working full time at a minimum-wage job wouldn’t be eligible. … A parent who works half-time for minimum wage wouldn’t even qualify.
“Unfortunately, the only way these parents can become eligible for health coverage in the future is if the parent applies for and is eligible for welfare,” Castro added. “That sends the wrong message.”
Democratic lawmakers are furious that Christie is insisting on making $300 million in cuts on the backs of poor and disabled residents. They point out that apart from the morally bankrupt idea of denying care to the neediest population, having more people uninsured will ultimately be more costly for New Jersey.
“Those 23,000 people are going to get sick this year,” said Louis Greenwald (D), a committee chairman. “Where are you suggesting they’re going to go?”
State Sen. Joseph Vitale (D), who sponsored the legislation creating FamilyCare in 1998, explained, “This completely dismantles the progress made over the last 12 years, and then some…I can’t imagine how it could be any worse.”
Since Medicaid — which provides health care services to at-risk populations including the indigent, blind and disabled — is jointly funded by the federal government, states must apply for a waiver before making major changes. That means Obama administration officials can still block Christie’s radical attempts to curtail enrollment.