Murphy and Pascrell Ask Governor Christie to Protect Medicaid Expansion

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has made fighting the state's opioid addiction epidemic a priority during his final year in office.

Murphy and Pascrell say Christie needs to fight cuts to Medicaid. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

PATERSON – Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts this year to combat New Jersey’s opioid addiction epidemic may not amount to much if the federal government rolls back an expansion of Medicaid, according to Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy.

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The two Democrats said at a joint news conference Monday that Christie must become more outspoken in defending Medicaid from cuts being discussed in Washington — and that he should push back on Republican efforts to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Christie chose to expand Medicaid in New Jersey under that law in 2013 and, as a result, nearly 500,000 residents who did not have health insurance are now enrolled in Medicaid.

A rollback of Medicaid spending would not only threaten coverage for those 500,000 residents, it also would reduce funding for addiction and recovery programs in New Jersey, undercutting the top policy priority of Christie’s last year in office.

“You can’t have it both ways, governor,” Pascrell told reporters outside the Paterson Counseling Center, which offers addiction recovery services. Pascrell gave Christie credit for focusing on the opioid epidemic, but he added, “If you change the Affordable Care Act, you minimize the Medicaid programs for those who are effected by opiates.”

Last month, a plan supported by President Trump to repeal and replace Obamacare with a Republican alternative called the American Health Care Act was scrapped before coming to a floor vote. All but one member of New Jersey’s congressional delegation opposed the plan, with many citing concerns about a loss of coverage for New Jersey residents.

Murphy, a leading candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, said Christie should speak up because the Medicaid issue “transcends partisan politics.”

“There are a number of Republican governors and, in fact, four Republican members of the House in New Jersey who all found a way to speak up and go against what would have been … the single biggest wealth transfer from folks in poverty, working poor, middle class, to the very wealthiest, in the history of our country,” Murphy said.

Four Republican governors — Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, John Kasich of Ohio, Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Rick Snyder of Michigan — wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan publicly opposing the American Health Care Act last month, voicing concerns about the fate of the Medicaid expansion under the new plan. Christie was not on the letter.

Murphy and Pascrell Ask Governor Christie to Protect Medicaid Expansion