The governor of New Jersey has a lot on his plate with the aftermath of Sandy.  Encouraging residents to try to return to their lives, jobs and routines despite the devastation around them can not be an easy job when many have lost all they have.  There is one more issue on his plate to deal-Medicaid Expansion.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Medicaid expansion saved lives and improved the health of newly-covered residents of states that expanded Medicaid.  Advocates for expanding eligibility for Medicaid in New Jersey are attempting to make their case but it remains to be seen whether they have developed enough evidence to convince a skeptical Gov. Chris Christie.

Senator Joe Vitale and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said the expansion could bring up to $22 billion in federal funds over eight years, provide coverage to at least 234,00 of the uninsured and reduce costs for hospitals and the state for uncompensated care. A key component of the national health care reforms, the Medicaid expansion would be fully funded by the federal government for the first three years and phased down over three years to cover 90 percent permanently.

The state spent $675 million this year to partially compensate hospitals for unpaid bills, mostly for treating patients without insurance. This annual expense could be slashed in half, according to an analysis by New Jersey Policy Perspective, once Medicaid is expanded. Hospitals could realize additional saving with reduced charity care that isn’t now reimbursed.

Along with the financial impact, much of the case for expansion has focused on making healthcare more accessible.  Senate Majority Leader Weinberg believes that at a time of limited resources, New Jersey can’t afford to turn down this opportunity to get back a fair share of tax dollars that go to Washington while providing the opportunity to give health care to people who have long been denied.

While the state of New Jersey recovers, its leaders still have some tough decisions to make regarding health care that even a “superstorm” can’t delay.