Christie Says He’ll Accept U.S. Money to Expand Medicaid

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a strident critic of President Obama’s health care law, announced Tuesday that he would accept federal money to expand the state’s Medicaid program for the poor.

The decisions was announced during his annual budget address, and makes Christie one of the most prominent Republican governors to embrace part of the health care law.

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“Let me be clear: I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act,” Mr. Christie said. “I think it is wrong for New Jersey and for America. I fought against it and believe, in the long run, it will not achieve what it promises. However, it is now the law of the land. I will make all my judgments as governor based on what is best for New Jerseyans.”

Viewed as a possible presidential contender, Christie must first win re-election this year in a mostly Democratic state. He portrayed the move as being based on practical considerations. Under the law the federal government would pick up a greater share of state Medicaid costs, with federal money allowing 104,000 poor people to receive much needed health services, and save New Jersey taxpayers close to $227 million in 2014.

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“Refusing these federal dollars does not mean that they won’t be spent,” Mr. Christie said. “It just means that they will be used to expand health care access in New York, Connecticut, Ohio or somewhere else.”

Christie made an emphatic point to express his overall dismay with the law. In particular, he referenced his refusal to have the state set up insurance exchanges.

“I twice vetoed saddling our taxpayers with the untold burden of establishing health exchanges,” he said.

The announcement followed Gov. Rick Scott of Florida’s reversal of his previous position and decision to accept federal money to expand his state’s Medicaid program. The Supreme Court ruled last year that states could choose not to expand their Medicaid programs.

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Christie proposed spending $32.0 billion for the fiscal year that begins in July, up from $32.1 billion last year. The budget assumes 4.9 increase in taxes and other revenues, a far less ambitious projection than last year, when the governor balanced his budget with a projected growth rate of eight percent.

It is now estimated by administration officials that revenues in the current fiscal year will fall about $407 million short when it ends this summer.

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