Health insurance advocates are hoping to enroll greater numbers of New Jerseyans from the state's more populous and less affluent counties.
Earlier this month, New Jersey Policy Perspective issued enrollment goals for each county for the first time. Its report, done in conjunction with the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy, updated coverage estimates to reflect smaller-than-expected enrollment numbers under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Advocates blame Gov. Chris Christie's decision not to operate a state insurance exchange and the state's resulting loss of funds for outreach and marketing efforts that might have bolstered the sluggish enrollment.
The same report provides more optimistic enrollment goals for each county, though it seems unlikely those goals will be met, at least in this first year.
NJPP estimates the largest number of new enrollees will be from Essex County, which had a 2012 population of 788,000 people – of whom roughly 17 percent had no health insurance. This year, NJPP expects nearly 38,000 of those people will get covered -- 14,000 through the marketplace and 24,000 through an expanded NJ Family Care program.
By 2016, more than 66,000 more people in Essex – which has median household income of about $51,000, the second-lowest in the state -- should be insured, according to the report.
Conversely, Warren County is likely to get the smallest number of newly insured. NJPP estimates 1,900 more people will get covered this year -- 1,125 in the marketplace and 774 through Family Care -- and only 3,825 through 2016. The median family income in Warren County is more than $71,000, the median for New Jersey. About 90 percent of the county's 108,000 people already have health insurance.