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The Affordable Care Act and New Jersey

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Health care remains a top campaign issue and could shape some elections around the country this Fall. It will be part of the conversation for the twelve congressional races and the senatorial race this year in the state but most of those races lack the same level of competitive as many others outside of New Jersey.

With elections and the outcome of the 2014 Midterm Elections generating most of the attention, it is worth looking at the impact of the law itself. While ads and campaign speeches can be filled with fodder geared towards a candidate's point of view, it is worth stating that more people should pay attention to what the facts and figures that are released show. And New Jersey has its own set of data to look at.

While the initial six month period for the open marketplace started quite rocky, it seemed each month overall continued to produce better numbers than the previous month with sign-ups. All but a little more than dozen states were under the federal government as states and governors especially those led by Republicans decided against setting up state-run marketplaces. New Jersey was part of the majority of states that had its residents directed to the Healthcare.gov website.

At the end of the initial enrollment period, over 162,000 New Jersey resident enrolled in Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance plans. Like the national trend, there was a strong push and a high increase in enrollments during the final month. Many of such enrollments were young Americans; a key demographic for the ACA's early success. Overall, the sign-up number in the state more than doubled in the final month.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; of those who signed up, more than 80% received a federal subsidy to help pay for their policies. Also, 98,000 residents selected coverage through the newly expanded state Medicaid program.

The final push in New Jersey and around the country ultimately brought the overall final enrollment total to around 8 million.

The final tally in New Jersey also speaks to the impress nature of generating an increase in sign-ups after less than 1,000 residents managed to get their applications completed during the first month.

Besides young Americans (18-34), Latinos were a key demographic that was looked at as being crucial to the success of the marketplace. Both groups could have had larger totals enroll from what original goals were. That will certainly be a continued target by officials throughout 2014 as the next enrollment period approaches after the midterm elections.

While 8 million is above the original overall target goal, there were over 5 million more visitors to the website who did not choose a plan. Like boosting young and Latino enrollment numbers, getting those additional 5 million to enroll will be another target in all likelihood.

More numbers related to enrollment are as follows: 63% who enrolled were white and roughly 17% were African Americans. These are national numbers. While African Americans were the second highest demographic group nationally, Asian Americans made up the second largest group who enrolled in New Jersey. Overall in New Jersey, the demographic groups broke down as such for those who revealed their race: 67,000 white, 17,000 Asian American, 14,000 African American, and 7,000 Latino.

In regard to gender, the national numbers and state numbers were roughly the same. In each case, more women signed up than men. Nationally is was a 54-46 split while it was 53-47 in New Jersey.

Mixed in with enrollment numbers and the law's impact in New Jersey is another figure: the percentage of uninsured people in the state is on pace to reach a quarter century low according to a report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The proportion of uninsured adults in the Garden State decreased by 38% from September, the month before the marketplace launched, to early March, about a month before the initial enrollment period ended. With what was mentioned about the success rate in the final month of an increase in enrollments, it is very likely that the number will decrease further.

As Joel Cantor, Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, would state,

What this tells us is mandates work. What we are seeing here that the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion really did crack the affordability barrier for people.

Between private insurance and Medicaid enrollments, overall 300,000 signed up for coverage.

Cantor would add,

It is hard to say when charity care would decline. You won’t see reduction in demand for ER services right away if that is where you are going for your care. It will take more than an insurance card to get people out of ER.

There is no doubt that there will be still be debates from both sides on health care reform and the Affordable Care Act. While there is still room for improvement and that was clearly showcased with the early struggles with the marketplace in October and November, the results of what transpired nationally and in New Jersey speak to its overall positive results. Each state will have different stories to tell and it is has not been a perfect transition under the law. With the number of those uninsured going down and more and more people benefiting from the law, more figures are likely to come out in the coming months that further speak to how those in New Jersey have taken advantage of the Affordable Care Act.

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