Tag Archive: Medicaid

News Roundup and Open Thread for Thursday, July 30, 2015

A heat wave continues today: stay cool and hydrated.

Despite an appeal to the Appellate Court from environmental groups: oral arguments start this morning on the NJDEP v. Exxon settlement case. Among others in protest, Sen. Ray Lesniak will submit his statement indicating, “The court should reject Christie’s settlement because it violates laws of the State of New Jersey, in addition to being unfair, unreasonable and inadequate.”

To dig or not to dig: Christie says he and Gov. Cuomo are committed to building a new trans-Hudson tunnel and will meet with the US Secretary of Transportation shortly. Christie has his demands. He, Cuomo, and the Port Authority are looking to the feds for substantial funding. With a dysfunctional congress that now can not even agree on how to refund the depleted US transportation account, this plan could be a tunnel too far. However, any news seems like good news for NJ Transit riders who just went through a week in hell.

Sen. Sweeney wants a $1 trillion federal loan program to rescue the states’ public worker pensions. A nice idea, but is this an impossible dream?

Christie’s vanity campaign: Real Clear Politics today indicates he is 10th (3.2) with Kasich now ahead of him in the national polls, 13th (2.3) in Iowa, 7th (5.0) in New Hampshire and 9th (5.7) in South Carolina.

Christie’s campaign proposes to sharply limit federal health care funding under Medicaid: NJPP says, “It would result in the loss of about $15 billion in federal funding for New Jersey over eight years.”  

President Christie’s’ choice for Supreme Court: would be a Samuel Alito clone. No surprise there, but it makes one wonder after so many harsh pronouncements on the road what he will espouse when he returns to his governor’s job in blue New Jersey.

Super PAC’s start to dominate races in NJ: POLITICO: Four of the five Democrats considering a run for governor in 2017 have super PACs. There was even one for a town council race in Parsippany.

Super storm Sandy lingering effects: slow rebuilding of homes and businesses, long insurance battles and mold that refuses to die – have taken a toll on the mental health of residents in its path.

Rutgers to give stipends to scholarship athletes: Under new NCAA rules they will receive up to $4,900.

Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh coming to New Jersey: The Haskell Invitational horse race takes place at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport Sunday. Don’t expect to find hotel space anywhere near there this weekend.

How slavery was written into New Jersey’s DNA: Salon’s fascinating early history of slavery in our state – including Mendham Township.  

Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget: Reinvest Health Savings to Meet NJ’s Growing Human Service Needs

Here’s the latest in our 7-week budget series, on what NJ’s spending priorities should be – Rethink the 2016 NJ Budget, with the Anti-Poverty Network. Ray is Senior Policy Analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective – Rosi.

Rethink the 2016 NJ BudgetThe state budget proposal for the coming year contains precious few increases to respond to the continued increases in poverty faced by New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents. One apparent exception to this trend is the 11 percent increase in funding for the Department of Human Services (DHS), the department of the executive branch that oversees most of the social service programs that funded by or through the State –

programs for healthcare, mental health, and disability services, as well as the income assistance programs and supplemental nutrition assistance that serve the poorest of the poor.

But don’t be fooled: This increase is not so much the result of more state investment, but the increasing reliance on federal dollars to meet New Jersey’s needs. In other words, The money that comes through DHS has increased, but the state itself has not increased its budget commitment to meet the growing need. In fact, the increased federal dollars are not even going as far as they could, because some of those resources have been diverted to plug other spending gaps.

Here are the numbers:

Christie, trying to get attention, takes on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid

In an effort to recapture the attention and enthusiasm of Republicans, Gov. Christie today in a speech in New Hampshire proposed substantial changes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. What he calls “entitlement reform” may appear as bold and appealing to conservative primary voters, but the plan is cynical, crafty, unnecessary and contrary to what is needed. It may stimulate discussion, it may backfire on him, or as a third-tier candidate it may not survive many news cycles, but it’s not a sensible plan.

Christie’s plan is cynical as it disregards the needs of less wealthy ageing Americans who would have to wait longer for Social Security and Medicare. Daniel Kurz, who has blogged on Blue Jersey, expresses his outrage on Facebook: “I guess people in their 60’s never get seriously ill in large numbers and can, for the most part, continue to sell their physical labor and compete with 26 year olds. The message from the NJ governor is clear: if you’re 67, and you’re chronically unemployed, and you have been paying into Social Security for four decades, then do us all a favor and drop dead.”

Christie’s plan is crafty because it has no immediate impact, delays the start date and is implemented gradually. Even Tea Party, Evangelical, and fiscally conservative Republicans are on these plans or hope to be. It starts raising the retirement age to 69 (from 67) in 2022 and then only by two months each year until it reaches 69 in 2044.  For Medicare it raises eligibility age at a pace of one month per year, so that by 2064 it would be 69. As Christie explains, “The changes I propose today would not affect seniors currently in these programs or seniors approaching retirement, so let me repeat that, before they start running these pushing granny in the wheel chair off the cliff ads.” He got a few laughs from this ugly remark, and maybe a few sighs of relief.

Let’s celebrate the 5th anniversary of the ACA

Patrick Murray’s Monmouth University Polling Institute held a panel discussion yesterday on the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act. Its ominous title was: “Is it working in New Jersey?” Apparently not so well according to three businessmen on the panel – the presidents of Meridian Health, Monmouth Medical Center, and NJ Association of Health Plans. There was no ACA representative (such as  U.S. Health and Human Services Regional Director Jackie Cornell-Bechelli who manages ACA locally), nor advocates who advise and help people enroll and who are more aware of of the impact on patients for whom the ACA is designed. Nor were there individuals from large inner cities like Paterson or Newark where the need and problems are more severe. 

Fortunately, former Governor James Florio, the fourth panelist, was there to provide a broader perspective. So despite the doom and gloom from some quarters, there is good reason to celebrate this anniversary.  

What’s Up in 2015

With facts (and help from a psychic advisor) below is what you need to know about our new year:

  • Minimum wage – On January 1 following a one dollar raise in 2014 it increases by an indexed amount of 13 cents to $8.38. Gov. Christie said “No,” but voters said “Yes.” It will help put more money into our economy, but is still low in an expensive state.

  • Petitions for the 2015 Elections – They will be posted on or about the first week of January. All 80 Assembly seats are up in November but only recent vacant seats in the Senate.  

  • State of the State Address – Gov. Christie delivers his speech on January 13 with another moment of truthiness as he trumpets his perceived accomplishments over the past years. Also he likely will drop hints and trial balloons over what he wants to include in the new budget.  

    For more go below the fold, and

    Happy New Year to all our readers.

  • Our Budget Crater: PLAN C

    The two-year shortfall of $ 2 to 3 billion that our government is facing represents a significant gash in our budgets and not something that can be repaired by moving expenses from one year to the next nor other forms of short-term gimmicks. Christie has presented his Plan A, he claims to have no other plan, and he is no rush to suggest alternatives. The burden is on the Legislature to do so. Others have proposed Plan B which often consists of a millionaire’s tax, or a gas tax, or cutting state subsidies, etc. Any one one or two of these plans, however, is insufficient to meet the challenge.  We need a Plan C.  

    Christie Wants Young And Old To Lose Medical Care

    promoted by Rosi

    Today at a publicly funded “town hall” Governor Chris Christie tried to have it both ways on the Affordable Care Act.

    “We expanded Medicaid, because we believe that folks are better off going to see physicians and having care than going to emergency rooms all the time,” he said, as quoted by CNN. “But the rest of this program does not make any sense.”

    The rest of the program makes no sense?  If he really thinks this way that means Christie wants:

    • The thousands of additional New Jersey children who are now eligible and enrolled in CHIP because of ObamaCare to lose their health care coverage;
    • Senior citizens to have to pay more for prescription medicine, since Obamacare closed the Medicaid Part D “donut hole” that cost many New Jerseyans thousands more a year;
    • Young people 22 to 26 to be thrown off their parents’ medical plans, making them vulnerable in case they do things like have a car accident or get pregnant;
    • Insurance companies to be able to deny policies to people who have small, pre-existing conditions meaning thousands with a minor skin cancer, hypertension or other issues to go without care or pay tens of thousands annually;
    • Insurance companies to impose annual or lifetime limits on what they’ll pay to cover, leaving sick or older people unable to afford or obtain policies;
    • Women to be charged more just because they’re women even if the men get more care.

    Yeah, that ObamaCare — makes no sense at all.

    Republican Governors Association Chair “Proud” To Have Obamacare in His State

    promoted by Rosi

    Today the chair of the Republican Governors Association touted the success of Obamacare in his annual budget speech.  Of course, Christie didn’t actually mention “Obamacare” or  “Affordable Care Act” by name, but he did applaud it.

    I am proud to have made the decision to expand Medicaid and provide greater access to healthcare for New Jerseyans in need.

    But greater access necessitates larger reforms as well.

    This year, New Jersey will spend over $12 billion in federal and state funds on Medicaid and Family Care to cover 1.4 million people in the state – children, senior citizens, those with disabilities, and some newly eligible adults.

    By opting for Medicaid expansion, New Jersey will receive more than $100 million in additional federal funding, while at the same time, beginning to reform Medicaid to make it possible for more individuals to live in their communities.

    Christie’s Infuriating Health Exchange Inaction

    So the Christie administration let pass a deadline Thursday on spending the much need $7.6 million in federal funds to help launch our health exchange under the Affordable Care Act. The money is in our Treasury. It would help guide many more people through the complicated Medicaid and health exchange enrollment process. NJPP, Star Ledger, at least three U. S. Representatives, State legislators, and a host of other consumer, health, legal, and social service advocates have been urging for months that he spend the monies. The 2014 enrollment deadline is March 31.

    What is even more infuriating is his complete failure to explain his refusal. What does he do when so many groups urge him to take an action? He ignore them. Is it his superiority complex that in many cases leads him to ignore what others advocate, do as he wishes, and fail to provide an explanation or excuse?

    Of course, he is busy these days helping the RGA and promoting his own presidential candidacy, but this has been his approach all along. It takes a reporter to corner him, ask him the question, and even then he may obfuscate or mislead.

    According to NJ BIZ, “Insurance Commissioner Ken Kobylowski made public a letter he sent Wednesday to  the federal Department of Health and Human Services, seeking permission to create new uses for the $7.6 million.” Maybe Christie could spare a few minutes to explain why he will not use the money for its intended purpose?

    So it boils down to a callous disregard for the electorate, a failure of transparency, an evasive arch-conservative action on something he wants to hide, and a major attitude problem. Take your choice, but that’s infuriating.  

    What’s Happening Today Tue. 01/14/2014

    State of the State Address: Governor Christie will make this annual ritual speech today at 3:00pm in the State Assembly Chamber. This is not like the February speech where a governor transmits his or her budget proposals to the legislature and discusses details of funding priorities. Instead the speech is more of an overview of the state of New Jersey at a point in time and provides the governor an opportunity to pat himself or herself on the back.  It appears he will float at least one new plan: longer school days and a shorter summer break.

    In the past year Christie was overwhelmingly re-elected to the governorship, he signed the tuition equality portion of the the Dream Act, he signed  some new gun legislation, unemployment decreased, jobs were added to the NJ economy, he added a new member to the Supreme Court, many Sandy victims received relief, the unemployment trust became solvent, and he agreed to Medicaid expansion. Some of these achievements he may highlight today, although in most cases they represent only partial, mixed or negative results and are not what progressives and other New Jerseyans expect.

    Christie will probably try to put the the burgeoning Bridgegate scandal behind him. Good luck on that. There are now six investigative bodies, some active and others proposed, which could shed further light on the “Why”, “Who” “When” and “What” of this developing story.

    His address will be broadcast live on NJTV and MSNBC and probably other  venues. NJTV will cover the Democratic response.

    Fact Checking: The Star-Ledger reported yesterday that Gov. Christie released a statement regarding the federal government’s plan to audit Sandy monies used for the Stronger Than The Storm ad campaign featuring the Governor and his family during the election campaign. The Christie statement claims, “Federal agency reviews are routine and standard operating procedure.” Such is not the case as the government lacks the funding. If audits were routine the prison system would have to be substantially expanded. Audits are highly selective and cover only a very small part of total federal funds spent. The audit announced is only for a fraction of Sandy money we received.

    ACA in NJ by the numbers: We are all too much aware of the problems incurred with the federal health exchange website during its roll-out. Nonetheless, U. S. Health & Human Services reported yesterday on updated enrollment information. The news for New Jersey is promising but we still have a long ways to go to meet enrollment goals: 34,741 individuals have selected a plan; 195,033 have completed the application of which 56,125 are eligible for financial assistance; 71,142 people have been assessed eligible for Medicaid. Of those who selected a plan 13% are under 25 years old whereas 59% are over 45 years old – an imbalance that needs to be corrected for there to be reasonably priced rates in the future. Of the 36 states in the federal health exchange only nine states have more completed applications.

    More education and enrollment assistance is needed. The State has federal funds it could spend on this endeavor but refuses to do so. Chris Christie provided only half-hearted approval of the ACA plan. He said, “Let me be clear, I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act. I think it is wrong for New Jersey and for America.”

    Some bill Christie has just vetoed: 1. “Establishes task force to study issues related to the establishment of full-day kindergarten,” 2. “Clarifies deadline to request mail-in ballot application,” 3. “Establishes College Affordability Study Commission,” and 4. “Requires Energy Master Plan to include long-term capacity planning and infrastructure planning.”