"Only the State of New York spends more money on Medicaid than the State of New Jersey."

Chris Christie on Thursday, June 16th, 2011 in a television interview on On the Line

Gov. Chris Christie says New Jersey is second in the nation for Medicaid spending

Gov. Chris Christie likes to tell people how New Jersey leads the nation or comes close in various fiscal categories, but when it comes to Medicaid spending, the Republican issued the wrong diagnosis.

During the June 16 broadcast of On the Line, host Steve Adubato was pressing Christie about why the governor wouldn’t support a tax increase for higher income earners. Adubato argued that revenue could support health benefits for struggling families.

Christie said New Jersey already faces high taxes and offered this extra dose of reasoning:

"We have the second-richest Medicaid program in America. Only the State of New York spends more money on Medicaid than the State of New Jersey. Steve, at some point, we have to say no to certain things."

PolitiFact New Jersey found that New Jersey’s Medicaid expenses in recent years were higher than most of the country, but not as high as Christie said they were.

According to three separate analyses -- covering the current federal fiscal year and the two previous ones -- New Jersey has ranked ninth each time in overall state spending on Medicaid. A Christie spokesman later pointed to older fiscal year numbers to back up the governor’s statement.

Based on data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, two analyses were performed by PolitiFact New Jersey and the other by the California-based Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a group that analyzes health care policy.

First, let’s start with the older numbers.

According to the foundation’s website -- www.statehealthfacts.org-- the state share of Medicaid spending in New Jersey between October 2008 and September 2009 was about $3.9 billion, putting it in ninth place among the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

A similar result turned up when we looked at more recent numbers.

Tony Salters, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, provided us with data on Medicaid expenses from fiscal year 2010 as well as the first two quarters of fiscal year 2011.

Based on that data, New Jersey ranked ninth among the states for overall state spending on Medicaid between October 2009 and September 2010. For the first two quarters of the current fiscal year, New Jersey also ranked ninth among the states, according to the federal data.

In each of the three fiscal years, the states ahead of New Jersey were New York, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida, Massachusetts and Ohio, according to the federal data.

If we go further back and look at a different measure, New Jersey still doesn’t rank second.

Joel Cantor, director of the Center for State Health Policy at Rutgers University, said he prefers the measure of total Medicaid spending per person below the federal poverty level. Based on that measure, New Jersey ranked 13th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. in federal and state spending combined in federal fiscal year 2008, Cantor said.

After being presented with some of our findings, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak pointed to a different analysis performed by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

That analysis shows that New Jersey ranked second among the states behind Alaska in Medicaid payments per adult in federal fiscal year 2007. Those payments represent federal and state shares.

"Of course, who we are second to is less relevant than the essential point that this is one more area where New Jersey ranked near the top in something (like taxes), and not in a good way," Drewniak wrote in an email.

But Medicaid payments for adults accounted for about 8 percent of total payments in New Jersey in federal fiscal year 2007, marking the smallest percentage among four enrollment groups, according to the foundation.

When we look at per-person payments for elderly and disabled residents -- the two largest groups benefiting from Medicaid funding -- New Jersey ranked 16th and fifth, respectively, among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., according to the foundation.

Let’s review:

In discussing his opposition to raising taxes on higher income earners, Christie said, "Only the State of New York spends more money on Medicaid than the State of New Jersey."

Yet federal data going back nearly three years has shown that New Jersey consistently ranks ninth in overall state spending on Medicaid. A Christie spokesman said New Jersey ranked second behind Alaska in payments per adult, but the least amount of Medicaid payments went towards that enrollment group.

New Jersey lands in the top ten for Medicaid spending in many cases, but the governor was wrong in his specific assertion that New Jersey ranked second. We rate Christie’s statement False.

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