Medicaid waiver application discards planned income-eligibility changes

TRENTON – Controversial parts of the Christie Administration’s plan to restructure the state Medicaid program are being scrapped, based on a waiver application sent last week.

Initially, the administration was seeking to put a freeze on accepting new adults into the FamilyShare program by reducing the income eligibly requirements from $24,645 to $5,317 for a family of three. The administration projected that for 2012, some 23,000 adults would have been impacted by changing the income eligibility limits. Children would still be accepted, however.

The application for the Medicaid global waiver sent to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare last Friday mentioned the administration’s position change on this part of the plan.

“The State’s initial proposal, outlined in the concept paper, was to freeze enrollment for NJ FamilyCare parents with income below 133 percent (of the) federal poverty line,” the document states. “The program was previously closed to parents with income above 134 percent FPL effective March 1, 2010. After the public input process, this issue received many comments and the most negative feedback; therefore, we are proposing to maintain eligibility for this population given the necessary funds to sustain eligibility.”

The initial proposal, first revealed in May, was slammed by Democratic lawmakers. Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Lou Greenwald, (D-6), of Voorhees said at a hearing that limiting the number of poor people eligible for Medicaid will result in increases to hospital emergency rooms in order for them to seek care for such things as strep throat and ear infections.

“Hospitals started hemorrhaging and costs for charity care skyrocketed,” Greenwald said at the time.

Another part of the waiver that also went to the ash heap is the $25 emergency room co-pay “non-emergent” care there. Officials said the move is intended to change their behavior, in hopes of making positive lifestyle changes that would make it less likely for them to require medical care in the future.

Medicaid is an $11 billion program originally intended to help provide medical care to poor residents, the blind, disabled residents and children. The state intends to ask for additional federal matching funds as the program will inevitably see more enrollees when the federal Affordable Care Act goes into place in 2014. The ACA, derisively known by some Republicans as Obamacare, was passed in March 2010, strictly along party lines.

Assembly Human Services Committee Chair Valerie Vainieri Huttle, (D-37), Englewood,  welcomed the news.

 “The administration’s proposal in its original form would have dealt a devastating blow to some of our neediest residents,” she said in a release. “It’s comforting to know they have seen a bit of the light and are withdrawing their plans to severely limit eligibility levels and charge sizeable co-pays for emergency room visits.”


Medicaid waiver application discards planned income-eligibility changes