(Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have expanded Medicaid eligibility under the healthcare law known as Obamacare, his office said on Friday, in an apparent reversal of position for the presumed 2016 Republican presidential hopeful.
Christie's office announced he vetoed eight bills that "would add potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to state and local budgets." He also signed a $32.9 billion budget and three other bills, his office said in a statement.
Among the bills he vetoed was a Medicaid expansion under the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law known as Obamacare.
Republicans have repeatedly tried to overturn the law since regaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2010 election, making its repeal a centerpiece of their political opposition to the Democratic president.
While that has failed because Democrats still hold a majority in the Senate, many states led by Republicans have attempted to undermine the law by refusing to expand Medicaid, a program created by the federal government and administered by the states to pay for medical services for the poor.
Under Obama's 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal government is offering to pay states 100 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid for three years beginning in 2014, declining to 90 percent in subsequent years.
Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obama's healthcare overhaul but allowed states to opt out of a provision expanding the Medicaid program.
Christie, a critic of Obamacare, said in February he would accept federal money to expand Medicaid in New Jersey because if he did not the money would go to other states.
The governor's press office did not immediately respond to requests to explain his apparent change.
Earlier this month, researchers said 14 Republican-led states that oppose expanding Medicaid under would leave 3.6 million of their poorest adult residents uninsured, at a cost of $9.4 billion per year by 2017.
The findings, published in the journal Health Affairs on June 3, did not include New Jersey among those 14 states.
Christie has emerged as a leading voice in the Republican Party and is seen as serious contender for the 2016 Republican nomination, should he decide to run. He is running for re-election as governor this year.