NEW JERSEY POLICY PERSPECTIVE
In another setback for a half million low and moderate income New Jerseyans without health insurance, Gov. Christie has again vetoed a bill creating a New Jersey health insurance exchange with strong consumer protections.
The governor’s veto is the latest in a long line of delays – with ever-changing reasons. The first exchange bill was vetoed so the governor could wait for the U.S. Supreme Court decision; after the court upheld the Affordable Care Act, the governor said he wanted to wait to see if a Romney presidency would successfully dismantle the law. Now the governor says the state has not received enough information from the federal government.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Unless action is taken soon, New Jersey may not be ready to start accepting applications for comprehensive, quality health coverage 10 months from now on Oct. 1, 2013. The governor still has a little time to establish a consumer-friendly exchange that represents New Jerseyans, since the Obama administration extended the deadline for states to decide to establish a state-based exchange until December 14, 2012.
The governor should work with the legislature to craft a new bill by that date – the eight-day countdown begins now.
One source of compromise could be that some of the bill’s provisions not take effect until the second year. Alternatively, if the governor feels that New Jersey is not ready to assume all the responsibilities of running an exchange, he can establish a state-federal partnership, which can also include key consumer protections. The governor has until Feb. 15, 2013 to make that decision.
If the governor does not make a decision, the federal government will step in and implement its own exchange – one that will not include consumer protections, at least in the first year.
At this point, it is most important that the governor shares his plan for the exchange for public review and that decisions be made as soon as possible. The legislature has been completely transparent with the public; the executive branch has not. New Jerseyans have a right to know the policies that will affect their health care.
The governor’s office has been studying this issue for two years with federal planning dollars. The state should be reaching out and educating the public about the new opportunities for affordable health coverage by now – but it hasn’t even decided who will run the exchange. Further delay will mean many will not know about the exchange, and fewer uninsured New Jerseyans will obtain health coverage. We can’t afford for that to happen.
Raymond Castro is Senior Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective.