A new report by the progressive think-tank New Jersey Policy Perspective estimates that New Jersey could save $2.5 billion over the next nine years if it were to join in the Affordable Care Act's optional Medicaid expansion.

 

The expansion allows adults -- with or without children -- to join the Medicaid rolls in 2014 if they earn no more than 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Currently, that line is set at 100 percent.

New Jersey has not yet made a decision on the matter, but Gov. Chris Christie is expected to announce his intention Tuesday in his budget address.

NJPP says the decision should be simple.

"The New Jersey expansion is a no-brainer for the state of New Jersey. It will benefit people who are uninsured. It's going to benefit the health of the state, and it's going to benefit New Jersey taxpayers," said Raymond Castro, NJPP's senior policy analyst.

If New Jersey accepts the expansion, the federal government would cover the additional Medicaid costs for the first three years. After that, New Jersey would be expected to match 10 percent of the federal dollars. (Currently, New Jersey matches 35 percent to 50 percent of federal funds.)

The report says New Jersey could save big because it could get far more federal support for existing coverage in programs such as New Jersey Family Care.

NJPP estimates that the expansion would allow another 300,000 New Jersey residents to receive Medicare benefits.

At this point, Medicare expansion has been accepted by 23 states including Delaware, and rejected by 13 including Pennsylvania.

States, though, can decide to opt in at any time.