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New Jersey budget to benefit from PPACA

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(Bloomberg) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a second-term Republican who has called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) a “failed federal program,” is benefiting from PPACA in his fiscal 2016 budget.

The state will spend $150 million less on charity care for uninsured patients next year, Christie said Tuesday at a town-hall meeting in Somerville. The expansion in Medicaid eligibility under PPACA has led to a 43 percent drop in the number of uncompensated hospital cases, he said.

“Expanding Medicaid was the right decision for New Jersey,” he said during the 90-minute session in an elementary school gym. “It’s helping to save us money. Our state taxpayers are seeing more federal dollars and we’ve also added more people covered so they don’t go for their primary care in a hospital emergency room.”

Christie, 52, has formed a federal political action committee to finance travel and raise visibility ahead of a possible White House run in 2016. Back home, he is dealing with record-low approval ratings as the state’s economic recovery lags behind the nation’s.

Agenda pitch

The Somerville event was his 130th since taking office, and his third in less than two weeks. The gatherings are an opportunity for Christie to pitch his agenda to mostly friendly crowds during the workday. The governor is trying to gain support for his plan to curb pensions and benefits for state workers.

At a South River town-hall meeting a year ago, Christie called PPACA a “failed federal program.” During the Somerville gathering, he never called the program by name, only referring to it as the “Medicaid expansion.”

Christie refused to establish a state-run PPACA health exchange for New Jersey, leaving the task to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Then, in 2013, he agreed to expand the state’s Medicaid program, known locally as FamilyCare. Since then, more than 390,000 uninsured New Jersey residents have enrolled in Medicaid through FamilyCare and another 250,000 have secured private health insurance through the federally-operated marketplace, according to state budget documents.

See also: 10 states where the Supreme Court may help short-term health sales.

During a budget briefing with reporters last month, Christie’s treasurer, Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, said that the “dramatic reduction in documented charity-care clients” and that the PPACA enrollments were “an opportunity to realize some state savings.”

“It’s been a blessing for providing appropriate care to our most vulnerable populations,” the treasurer said.

—With assistance from Elise Young in Trenton.