New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Tuesday he wants to expand Medicaid enrollment in his state, making him the latest high-profile Republican to accept a key pillar of President Obama’s health care law.
The straight-talking politician follows in the footsteps of seven other Republican governors who decided the influx of federal dollars would help them insure poor residents within their borders, despite their dislike of the president’s law and the potential strain it could place on their state budgets down the road.
Fierce GOP critics of the law such as Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Gov. Rick Scott are among those who have also taken the new Medicaid money.
Republican governors in Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and North Dakota also have opted to expand Medicaid enrollment in accordance with Mr. Obama’s signature first-term legislation. Others, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, have turned down the money.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay for 100 percent of the costs associated with expanding state Medicaid rolls in 2014-2016 to those who make 133 percent of the poverty level, before scaling down the contribution to 90 percent by 2020.
Last June, the Supreme Court ruled that states could reject the Medicaid expansion in the new health care law without risking their existing federal funds for the program.
States that have resisted the expansion say entitlement spending is taking up too much of their budgets. They also fear the federal government will renege on their share in future years because of fiscal gridlock in Washington.
Despite his support for the expansion, Mr. Christie reiterated his opposition to Mr. Obama’s law overall.
“I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act,” he said in his annual budget address to the state legislature. “I think it’s wrong for New Jersey and I think it’s wrong for America.”
Mr. Christie is among governors who have asked the federal government to set up an insurance market place, or “exchange,” for them instead of taking on the task in-house.