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Fine Print: Task Force Would Oversee Health Marketplace

Assembly, Senate approve plan to monitor new insurance exchanges in NJ.

What it is: A resolution establishing a legislative task force to oversee and develop recommendations to implement the health insurance exchange or marketplace, the primary way for uninsured residents to buy insurance established by the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The Assembly passed it yesterday after the Senate passed it last week.

What it means: After Gov. Chris Christie vetoed two bills that would have established a state-run exchange, the bill would allow the Legislature to keep an eye on how the exchange is being implemented. In addition, the task force could recommend legislation in the future to establish a state-operated exchange.

Who will be on the task force: The task force would have 12 members, including Sen. Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex), the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee chairman, and Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr. (D-Burlington), the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee chairman.

Why it won’t be going away: It will provide quarterly updates and annual reports on its findings, conclusions and recommendations, including any recommendations to expand the state’s role in the exchange.

Why it could be symbolic: Christie hasn’t shown any sign of changing his mind on the exchange. In vetoing the second of the two bills, Christie said the federal government hadn’t provided enough information about the financial impact on the state, as well as how much control the state would have. While Christie has indicated that state officials will work with federal officials to implement the law, he hasn’t indicated any desire to do more than what the federal government requires.

Why it could have substance: If the state does take an active role in the future, there’s a fair chance that it would be based on legislation recommended by the new task force. It reflects a different approach that the Legislature would like to see the state take with the federal exchange, in which the state does whatever it can to make the marketplace succeed in enrolling more residents in health insurance.

What the sponsors are saying: Sen. Nia H. Gill (D-Essex and Passaic): said the task force will provide a measure of oversight and allow future action, adding: “Although the governor decided to turn over its creation to the federal government, we still have an obligation to ensure our exchange is both efficient and effective and that is meets the unique needs of our residents.”

Where a Republican leader stands: Assembly Republican Conference Leader David Rible (R-Monmouth and Ocean) said the state should stay out of something that’s already being handled in Washington: “This resolution duplicates the oversight for which the Obama administration is already responsible and only serves to create redundancy and more red tape that we don’t need. The task force will have the onus and duplicative responsibility of making recommendations on the way the exchange is run.”

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