Expanded Medicaid requires coordinated outreach, advocates say

TRENTON – Health care advocates today applauded the governor’s decision to expand Medicaid, but they also called for immediate and increased outreach to get the word out.

Crystal McDonald, director of organizing for People Improving Communities Through Organizing New Jersey, a faith-based network, told the Assembly Budget Committee outreach funding is lacking from the expanded Medicaid.

“We can’t leave enrollment to chance,” she told the Assembly Budget Committee.  “We’re not going to achieve any of those savings.”

She echoed earlier testimony that more than 80 percent of those eligible don’t know it, and if the state is to accommodate potentially 300,000 more people, outreach is essential.

The committee was holding a daylong hearing taking testimony mostly from various health services providers. 

Gov. Chris Christie agreed in February to expand Medicaid, and advocates have been saying for some time that the word has to get out in order to enroll as many of those newly eligible as possible.

Sister Patricia Codey, president of Catholic HealthCare Partnership of New Jersey, representing 12 acute-care hospitals, said expanded Medicaid is “the right moral decision.”

The 12 hospitals she represents provide 25 percent of the state’s charity care, and in addition to helping hundreds of thousands newly eligible patients, she said “This will ease the financial burden of the taxpayers of the state.”

Some of those hospitals, she told the panel, have less than a month’s cash on hand even as they remain committed to helping the neediest patients in the state.

There are 60 other hospitals in the state shouldering 75 percent of the charity care burden, she said.

Expanded Medicaid requires coordinated outreach, advocates say