by Marcus L Williams, M.D.
As a board member of the American Heart Association and cardiologist, I understand the importance of accessible medical coverage for all Americans. I see patients every day who struggle with cardiovascular diseases-our nation’s and our state’s No. 1 health threat– who have to choose between food on the table or fulfilling their medication prescription. So, it is with much appreciation that I applaud Governor Christie’s decision to expand Medicaid coverage to New Jerseyans who have incomes under 138% of the national poverty level who now have the access to live healthier lives.
The uninsured are far less likely than their insured counterparts to receive appropriate and timely medical care and, as a result, suffer worse medical outcomes including higher mortality rates. Considering that more than 16 million adults with Medicaid coverage have a history with cardiovascular disease, this expansion serves as a vital source of coverage for uninsured adults with or at-risk for cardiovascular disease.
The American Heart Association believes in effective, equitable and excellent health care for all Americans. With the expansion of Medicaid, some of our state’s poorest and sickest patients now have access to this critical financing mechanism for healthcare services.
Research estimates that Medicaid beneficiaries with heart disease are twice as likely to take their medication appropriately, compared with those who are uninsured. Additionally, those with coverage are 20% more likely to have been checked for high cholesterol and have their blood pressure controlled-two major risk factors for developing cardiovascular diseases.
This decision has a positive financial benefit as well, with a reduction in state and local spending for hospital care for the uninsured. In 2008, state and local governments picked up $10.6 billion of the cost for caring for uninsured people in hospitals, according to the Urban Institute.
With more accessible healthcare, more hearts will be healthy and more lives will be saved.
Williams is an American Heart Association board member and a board certified cardiologist with Cardiac Associates of North Jersey in Oakland.