Taking the family out of NJ FamilyCare


By Raymond J. Castro, Senior Policy Analyst

In defense of his plan to cut the state’s federally subsidized health insurance program for working poor families, Governor Christie recently asserted that New Jersey provides more access to Medicaid than any state except New York.

That’s simply not true.

In fact, if the governor has his way, New Jersey would have one of the nation’s most restrictive policies when it comes to the Medicaid program that provides affordable health insurance to working poor families who have no other options.

It is accurate to say that when it comes to children New Jersey is second only to New York in providing health coverage through Medicaid/ NJ FamilyCare. However, when it comes to providing affordable coverage to the rest of the family, Medicaid/NJ FamilyCare lags behind nine other states and is racing toward the bottom of that list.

Last year, the state cut the NJ FamilyCare eligibility level for parents in New Jersey from 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 133 percent of FPL. For a family of three, that meant a maximum yearly income of $25,000 instead of $36,000.

The state plans even further reductions this year by reducing that eligibility threshold to just 29 percent of FPL. That’s a yearly income of about $5,300 for a family of three. That’s also the same eligibility level for the welfare program, WorkFirst NJ. The irony there is that taking away the option of NJ FamilyCare creates an incentive for parents to stop working full time and rely on welfare in order to have health insurance.

If those proposed cuts are enacted, New Jersey would have one of the lowest eligibility levels for parents in the nation. Only Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas would have lower eligibility levels.

More important, however, is that research in New Jersey and nationally has shown that reducing the eligibility level for parents will reduce the number of children enrolled in NJ FamilyCare. That will only increase the financial pressures on emergency rooms and hospitals as it drives up the number of uninsured New Jerseyans.

Read more about family health insurance here.

View the press event with Senators Joseph Vitale and Loretta Weinberg and advocates on this issue along with the governor’s response.

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