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Christie to decide whether to opt into expanded Medicaid eligibility under new federal law

Roughly 318,000 adults in New Jersey could obtain health coverage if Governor Chris Christie agrees to expand the Medicaid program under the federal health care reform law. Of the 318,000 adults who would be able to join Medicaid, 177,000 are-according to New Jersey Citizen Action-"the hardest working people who have paid into the program.

The expanded Medicaid program would accept single adults who earn up to $15,400 and a family of three earning $26,300. Under the Affordable Care Act, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June, governors can decide whether or not they obey the law's call to cover more low-income people through Medicaid. So far, only 16 governors have decided to opt in. Governor Christie, as yet, has not said what his plans are, and there is no deadline for making that decision.

Governor Christie is set to deliver his budget address on Feb. 26, and he is expected to announce his decision soon. Open enrollment will reportedly begin in October under the federal law, which is set to take effect in 2014.

In addition to expanding Medicaid Coverage for millions of Americans, the Affordable Care Act is set to make various other improvements to the program. Those looking at beginning the process of Medicaid planning do well to speak to an attorney who is aware of the coming changes, particularly the eligibility rules.

Eligibility is a key focus for Medicaid planning, the goal of which is to preserve one's wealth by structuring it in such a way that it is removed from one's countable assets for Medicaid purposes. Planning well for Medicaid eligibility is critical for avoiding the wealth-draining effects of paying for long term care.

Source: nj.com, "Report: 177K working N.J. residents could get health care under expanded Medicaid program," Susan K. Livio, January 9, 2012

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