02/22/2013 05:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

To Put the Interests of New Jersey First, Gov. Christie Needs to Expand Medicaid

Governor Christie likes surprises.

He surprised the national Republicans with his warm cooperation with President Obama in the wake of the Superstorm Sandy's devastating blow to New Jersey. He surprised those involved with his approval of a higher education reorganization bill that turned his original proposal upside down.

So, don't bet the ranch on Medicaid expansion coming to New Jersey as a part of Tuesday's budget message.

However, the rejection of the Medicaid expansion would have such powerful negative consequences for New Jersey in so many ways, that this is one surprise that is best avoided.

As a reminder, the argument for accepting the Medicaid expansion is already one-sided:

• It would mean that 307,000 struggling New Jerseyans who must now rely on emergency room visits for any ailment would be covered with quality health care

• It would infuse an average of $1.7 billion dollars annually into the state's fragile economy over the next nine years, stimulating economic activity and new jobs

• It would expand health care at no cost to the state in 2014, 2015, and 2016, with its share gradually growing to only 10 percent by 2020

Now we can add to that list, courtesy of a new report by NJPP's Raymond Castro that demonstrates that the state would save billions of dollars over the next nine years as a direct result of the expansion. First, an array of health services that the state pays for in partnership with the federal government ranging from 35 to 50 percent would be fully financed by the feds. Second, not accepting the expansion would produce higher costs to the state to maintain services to impoverished residents. Third, by making about one-fourth of all uninsured New Jerseyans eligible for health coverage, the use of hospital emergency rooms for non-emergency care would decline and, with it, the state's bill for charity care.

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida is the latest true-red Republican governor to sign on for the expansion. He joins a growing list of hard-right conservative governors -- all of whom pilloried Obamacare last year -- who have accepted the expansion to help their states serve more residents and stimulate their economies.

Gov. Scott ran for governor on a platform to do everything in his power to prevent Obamacare. Two years later, he has put the interests of his constituents above the interests of his party ideology.

Gov. Christie should do the same.