Report: Christie to accept ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion for New Jersey

Alternate headline: “CPAC was right.”

I’ve joked before about him teaming up with Bloomberg on some kind of billionaire-bankrolled No Labels third-party effort. The joke’s less funny every day.

Gov. Chris Christie will expand the state’s Medicaid program to cover 300,000 uninsured New Jersey residents, The Star-Ledger learned today.

The governor’s new budget, which he plans to unveil at joint session of the Legislature this afternoon, also relies on state revenue growth of 4.9 percent and delays some property tax rebates for local taxpayers, according to three sources with knowledge of the budget plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity…

[T]he Republican governor, a critic of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, could reap up to $300 million by expanding the state program in the coming budget year…

The revised Medicaid program would shift 100 percent of the costs to the federal government for these new enrollees for the first three years, then gradually taper it to 90 percent. The state could expect $1.7 billion a year to cover the costs.

Via the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes, here’s what Christie had to say about Medicaid in 2011, when he was still a few years away from facing re-election in his highly Democratic home state:

And let me tell you what the truth is. What’s the truth that no one is talking about-here is the truth that no one is talking about: you’re going to have to raise the retirement age for social security. Oh I just said it and I’m still standing here! I did not vaporize into the carpeting and I said it! We have to reform Medicare because it costs too much and it is going to bankrupt us. Once again lightning did not come through the windows and strike me dead. And we have to fix Medicaid because it’s not only bankrupting the federal government, it’s bankrupting every state government. There you go. If we’re not honest about these things, on the state level about pensions and benefits and on the federal level about social security, Medicare, and Medicaid, we are on the path to ruin.

And via Red State’s Dan McLaughlin, here he was last year on Medicaid and ObamaCare:

Responding to a question, Christie said, “First of all, I was glad that the Supreme Court ruled that extortion is still illegal in America — and that’s a relief because Obamacare on Medicaid to the states was extortion.”

“It essentially said, ‘You expand your program to where we tell you, and if you don’t, we’re taking the rest of your money away.’ Well, that’s extortion,” Christie said.

The Affordable Care Act originally called for states to lose federal funding for Medicaid if they refused to expand the program.

Christie claimed that New Jersey has the second most expensive Medicaid program in the country, and questioned how much more the state’s program could be expanded.

Evidently he’s done questioning it. His speech to the state about his budget plans is set for 3 p.m. ET; Christie fans on Twitter are watching and waiting to see if he pairs his big Medicaid announcement with plans for reform. In rejecting a similar expansion of Medicaid for Wisconsin, Scott Walker announced that instead he would re-open the state low-income health-care program to new enrollees (it had previously been capped) while lowering the income ceiling on eligibility for the program. Result: More desperately poor people get Medicaid while those a bit above the poverty line move to the federal health-care exchanges for subsidized coverage. Unlike Walker, Christie’s going to take the money, but he’ll have to say something reform-minded to preserve what little fiscal-conservative credibility he has left. NRO’s Robert Costa says that’s the plan:

Assuming that’s true, it’ll cement Christie’s identity as the foremost member of the Brooksian “big government isn’t the problem, it just needs to work better” school of conservatism. While we wait, via Mediaite, here’s Joe Scarborough being very Joe Scarborough-ish about Christie’s CPAC snub. Exit quotation from ACU board member Morton Blackwell: “He is a Republican, but I don’t think he would accurately be described as a conservative.”