Health coverage erodes for some N.J. families

    Not so long ago, New Jersey boasted two programs that worked seamlessly to provide health insurance to the state’s working poor.

    In the spring of 2010, the Christie Administration made big changes to one of the programs, and now it’s leaving thousands of people without coverage.

    For years, parents with kids on a limited income either applied for Medicaid or the state-run program called NJ FamilyCare. These programs worked hand in hand. If you didn’t qualify for one, chances are the other would cover you.

    That hasn’t been the case for nearly three years since the Christie administration froze NJ FamilyCare’s enrollment and, to save money, changed the maximum amount parents can make while still qualifying for coverage.

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    That presents a problem, says Ray Castro, senior policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal think tank.

    “There’s no place for them to receive assistance,” he said.

    Castro’s been watching as more than 40,000 residents have reportedly lost health coverage since the Christie changes.

    “They just become uninsured, and they have to deal with that one way or another,” he said.

    A spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services confirms that some people found themselves earning too much money to remain on NJ FamilyCare. Others were dropped by Medicaid because of income restrictions, and when they turned to FamilyCare, it wasn’t taking applicants.

    Some New Jersey lawmakers want to change NJ FamilyCare’s eligibility rules so more families can remain with the plan. Castro says, ironically, the state is losing money by limiting the program. For every dollar it saves, it loses $2 in federal funds.

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