NJ FamilyCare Adds More Than 100,000 Residents to Health Insurance Rolls

State’s decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare appears to pay off as federal funds cover cost of new enrollees

New Jersey FamilyCare has added over 100,000 people to its rolls, contributing to savings that Gov. Chris Christie has already anticipated in his proposed budget.

In just the first three months of this year, 102,268 state residents were added to the rolls of FamilyCare, which includes recipients of two federally supported programs – Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Christie cited both public health benefits and cost savings when he announced that the state would opt for Medicaid expansion via the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said last week that officials are projecting that the state will meet its goal of saving $185 million in the current fiscal year due to the Medicaid expansion and will save $181 million more next year..

The savings stem from the ACA’s provision under which the federal government covers 100 percent of costs for newly eligible Medicaid recipients through 2016, as well as all of the costs for residents who were previously covered by states that had already expanded Medicaid to cover some low-income parents.

Christie said last year that the expansion would save the state $227 million, but that figure didn’t include additional costs of increased enrollment – due to ACA outreach and publicity — by people who were already eligible for FamilyCare.

Of the state’s roughly 8.9 million residents, 1.39 million were enrolled in FamilyCare through March, according to the Department of Human Services. The number was up from 1.28 million enrollees in December.

While the Rutgers Center for Health Policy projected that FamilyCare would increase by 234,000 due to the ACA, it didn’t put a timeframe on that estimate. New Jersey Policy Perspective recently worked with Rutgers analysts to estimate that the number would be reached by December 2016.

Joel C. Cantor
Center Director Joel Cantor said the state is on track for its enrollment goals.The increase “shows that the enrollment that New Jersey is experiencing is pretty much what we expected at this point, maybe a little better,” said Cantor, adding that it’s likely that a large percentage of the gain is due to newly eligible residents enrolling.

He added that active involvement in expanding FamilyCare has contributed heavily to the enrollment climb.

“I think New Jersey has done a good job of using the technology available to enroll folks,” Cantor said.

A new avenue for reaching residents is expected to become available in coming weeks, when the state begins to use income data from the food-stamp program to identify residents who are probably eligible for FamilyCare.

New Jersey Policy Perspective senior policy analyst Raymond Castro said FamilyCare is an attractive program since it doesn’t require recipients to pay any fees. Castro noted that FamilyCare enrollment surged by more than 20,000 in March, perhaps due to the publicity surrounding a March 31 deadline for buying insurance through the new federal marketplace. FamilyCare doesn’t have a deadline, so enrollment is expected to continue to increase.

While marketplace enrollment figures for March aren’t available yet, Castro said there are early indications that a last-minute wave of sign-ups will put marketplace enrollment above the 102,268 increase in FamilyCare enrollees.

The budget impact of the ACA hasn’t been entirely positive, according to Sidamon-Eristoff.

The state budgeted more than $39 million to reimburse insurers for fees that they must pay under their contracts to manage Medicaid recipients’ healthcare.=
In addition, all health insurance plans have new fees required under the ACA to finance re-insurance and research of comparative effectiveness. As a result, the state has budgeted $21 million to cover those added fees for state employees’ insurance.