[OPINION] Expanding Medicaid In NJ Offers Many Benefits

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by Dave Mollen, AARP New Jersey State President

A recent AARP survey showed that 88% of voters polled in ten states across the nation believe that Medicaid is an important federal program. There is great support among these voters for expanding the availability of Medicaid using the federal funds provided for this purpose under the Affordable Care Act.

They know that the expansion of Medicaid will enable the adult without children making just $15,000 a year to get the health care she needs. Without the expansion she will continue to go without care or receive charity care in hospital emergency rooms. And they know that since taxpayers pay for charity care, they know that expanding Medicaid can save taxpayers money. Governor Christie has always focused on saving taxpayers money. Expanding Medicaid using the funds available under the Affordable Care Act can be one of the best ways to ease the burden of high taxes on our citizens.

Expanding Medicaid can provide better care, enabling hard working low income wage earners to catch medical conditions early, when treatment can be much cheaper and more effective. This can save both money and needless suffering. In fact, studies show that expanding Medicaid results in fewer unnecessary deaths because it enables low-income people to get preventive care and life-saving drugs.

And decreasing health care costs must be among America’s highest priorities, since we spend so much more on health care than many other countries without having better results to show for it. This is one of the reasons why the Affordable Care Act makes funds available to the states for Medicaid expansion.

In many cases, those who work at low-wage jobs are often not eligible for employer-paid health insurance. In addition, many of these workers have been laid off from their jobs in the recession. And since all workers contribute to the cost of Medicaid throughout their working lives, providing them with Medicaid when they need help is just simple fairness.

Further, providing care for these workers under Medicaid can help ease hospital emergency room overcrowding to help ensure that our emergency rooms will be there for us if and when a real emergency strikes. After all, emergency rooms are not designed to be the source of primary care for those who need it but can’t afford it; emergency rooms are meant to be there for everyone when emergencies strike!

And since emergency rooms are not designed to offer primary care, studies show that the average visit to an emergency room costs about ten times as much as a visit to a primary care doctor, so here’s another way that expanding Medicaid can help save money.

As we face the realities of the recession, any of us – or our friends or families – could fall on hard luck, lose a job, lose our insurance and not be able to afford health care coverage. Now more than ever we need a safety net to ensure that if we fall, we can get the health care we need as we get back up again.

Expanding Medicaid will also mean that more employees of small businesses will be able to have health insurance, which will make New Jersey more competitive in attracting potential employees. And here’s another area that Governor Christie is focused on. He wants to expand New Jersey’s base of successful small businesses and expanding Medicaid can really help here too.

And expanding Medicaid will provide New Jersey residents with more support from the federal government, which is an important goal, since New Jersey is one of the states that currently provides more in taxpayer dollars than it receives in federal support.

So expanding the availability of Medicaid can help grow businesses, improve New Jersey’s economy, and create jobs and a healthier workforce that helps us all. Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is just good sense.


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