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By Jon Whiten | January 9th, 2013 - 12:05pm
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JANUARY 9, 2013

Hundreds of Thousands of Hard-Working New Jerseyans Stand to Benefit from Medicaid Expansion

New Report Lists Top 20 Occupations in Which Working New Jerseyans Would Be Eligible for Health Coverage

About one in four of New Jersey’s working adults without health insurance could obtain coverage if Gov. Christie accepts the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to a new report released today by New Jersey Policy Perspective and the New Jersey For Health Care Coalition.

In New Jersey, nearly 700,000 working adults have no health insurance. Up to 176,970 of them could get covered under the Medicaid expansion, since their incomes fall below 138 percent of the poverty line ($15,414 for an individual and $26,344 for a family of three), the new income eligibility requirements under the expansion.

These uninsured workers are employed in almost three-quarters of all Census-defined job categories (190 out of 268) in New Jersey. The largest categories are 26,000 restaurant workers and 20,000 construction workers, the two largest private industries in the state. The list of uninsured workers includes many other jobs we are all familiar with, from landscaping, building maintenance and child care to retail, education, home health services and real estate. These industries are essential to New Jersey’s economy. Expanding Medicaid not only helps these workers; it also supports these industries by creating a more productive workforce that can compete with other states and nations.

“As the middle class continues to shrink, this report shows just how big of a problem health insurance has become for the growing number of struggling working families in New Jersey,” said New Jersey Policy Perspective Senior Policy Analyst Raymond Castro, the author of the report. “Almost three quarters of all occupations in New Jersey include workers who would be eligible for the Medicaid expansion – that is shocking considering that the income eligibility criteria is only slightly above the poverty level. Under federal law this expansion is an option, but if New Jersey is going to improve its health and its economy, it should be considered an absolute necessity.”

To mark the release of the report, workers without insurance joined analysts and advocates to discuss why New Jersey must opt in to the Medicaid expansion.

“I work hard as the vice manager of a restaurant, but since the company does not provide health insurance, I am forced to use charity care because I can’t afford private health insurance,” said Hri Anderson, who works at a chain restaurant in Middlesex County and has medical debt from a previous illness. “Health coverage would mean a lot to me – it would mean staying healthy and out of debt.”

Unfortunately, it remains uncertain if New Jersey will opt for the Medicaid expansion. If Gov. Christie rejects this opportunity, New Jersey will forgo a significant opportunity to increase the health and economic security of hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans.

"Gov. Christie should not stand in the way of hardworking New Jersey residents’ ability to access affordable health care. Currently, 700,000 working New Jersey residents lack access to health care. Through the ACA, President Obama has created a structure and resources, through expansion of Medicaid, to cover low-income adults,” said Kevin Brown, New Jersey State Director of SEIU 32BJ, which represents about 10,000 building cleaners, school maintenance and food service workers, and apartment maintenance workers – many of whom lack health insurance. “Sixteen states have already done the right thing and will take advantage of this opportunity and the billions of dollars of federal funding that come with it. We urge Gov. Christie to follow their lead and ensure that New Jersey residents – including thousands of low-wage food and building service workers – are not left behind.”

The Medicaid expansion would also help small and independent businesses throughout New Jersey, as graphic designer Danielle Sacripanpe noted.

“As an independent graphic design artist, sometimes the income I make is not enough to make ends meet and be able to afford health insurance coverage,” said Sacripanpe, who has a chronic illness. “Medicaid could give me the kind of temporary support I need to get healthy while I invest my energy into growing my business to a point so that I can make a living of it.”

Expanding Medicaid under the ACA would be in line with earlier progressive efforts by New Jersey to expand health insurance to vulnerable populations. The NJ FamilyCare program, for instance, has been enormously successful at insuring children and families. Accepting the Medicaid expansion would help young adults, like Mirian Ochoa’s son, successfully maintain coverage at a time when fewer jobs are offering insurance.

“This expansion would help my son transition from a dependent to an independent adult. With the expansion, kids like mine can be sure that debt from medical bills and illness will not stand in the way of achieving their goals for the future,” Ochoa said. “It will help give them a shot at a good life with economic security and good health. That, and happiness, is all a mother could wish for her children.”

A non-binding resolution recommending that the state expand Medicaid under the ACA is making its way through the Legislature, but the decision is solely the governor’s to make. Nor is there any federal deadline for making a decision, which only adds to the discomfort of the uninsured desperate for health care. This report clearly shows that failing to expand Medicaid will be felt statewide by working New Jerseyans of all stripes, who are often our friends, relatives, co-workers and people we come in contact with everyday.

“It is New Jersey’s hardest working people who stand to gain from an expansion of the Medicaid program,” New Jersey Citizen Action Director of Organizing Dena Mottola Jaborska said. “We all know the dedicated people this report describes. They work in our communities, and we rely on them every single day, for all sorts of things that matter to us a great deal. These are the people who build our homes, cut our lawns, care for our kids and prepare our food. Gov. Christie must do right by these people and opt in to the Medicaid expansion.”

ABOUT NEW JERSEY POLICY PERSPECTIVE

New Jersey Policy Perspective is a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank that researches and analyzes economic issues to find fair and progressive solutions that benefit all New Jerseyans. njpp.org

ABOUT THE NEW JERSEY FOR HEALTH CARE COALITION

The New Jersey For Health Care Coalition is a broad-based alliance of over 60 organizations representing over 2 million members working to bring guaranteed, high quality, affordable health care to all New Jersey residents. njforhealthcare.org

Contact Info: 

Jon Whiten, NJPP
whiten(at)njpp.org

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