Gov. Chris Christie said he isn’t worried that the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act and conversion of the Medicaid program into block grants would hurt health care in New Jersey.

Democrats worry the expansion of Medicaid coverage to more people under what’s often called Obamacare may be in jeopardy, depending on how it is replaced. Christie said he doesn’t share their concern and how it could affect access to things such as drug-treatment programs.

“Listen, I think the president understands that if we go to a block-grant type situation for Medicaid, which I think we should and advocated for when I was running for president, it’s about what is the level of that block grant. Is it a block grant based upon pre-expansion numbers or post-expansion numbers?” Christie said.

“If what you’re really doing is giving governors an opportunity to go and manage their Medicaid money in a way that they think is most responsible and without all of the federal restrictions, we’re going to have the opportunity to prioritize what we want to spend on here in New Jersey,” Christie said.

“I don’t think anybody would say that we shouldn’t be spending money, a significant amount of money, on the opioid crisis and dealing with it,” he said.

Democratic senators said earlier this week that the state could lose out on $3 billion in federal matching funds and its budget could face $1 billion in additional spending if the Medicaid expansion is repealed or significantly revised.

Christie said he doesn’t think that is President Donald Trump’s intention.

“I am not concerned about that because I think the president understands that block grants aren’t about program reduction. They’re about program modernization and giving flexibility to governors who really understand how their particular state can better spend this money to give them the chance to do that,” Christie said.

That's "simply not true" about the impact of block grants, said Jon Whiten, vice president of New Jersey Policy Perspective. He said federal funding for New Jersey's cash welfare program has shrunk by 73 percent since it was turned into a block grant in 1996.

"In a political world currently filled with 'alternative facts,' let's make one thing clear: when it comes to health care for tens of millions of Americans, 'program modernization' and 'flexibility' really mean that tens of millions of Americans will no longer have access to vital prescriptions, basic doctor visits and life-saving health care for themselves and their children," Whiten said.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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