Advocates fear Thursday’s legislative voting deadline could scrap all plans to put a state-based health exchange system in place.
“It is the best way we can protect New Jersey healthcare consumers from the unrelenting onslaught of the Trump administration attacks against the Affordable Care Act,” said Maura Collinsgru, healthcare program director for New Jersey Citizen Action.
Advocates say a package of bills laying the groundwork for a state-run health insurance marketplace cleared the Assembly but stalled in the Senate. On Tuesday, they implored Senate President Steve Sweeney to post the legislation for a vote before the summer recess.
“Otherwise we are in jeopardy of not being able to launch a state-based exchange in 2020. We have to have a completed application to CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) by August 1,” Collinsgru said.
New Jersey is one of 34 states relying on the federal exchange and its website HealthCare.gov to enroll consumers in health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. But after the Trump administration reduced funding for outreach, advertising and enrollment assistance, state leaders decided to take control of the marketplace. The move kept it out of the path of a federal repeal-and-replace effort by collecting a tax from insurers capped at 4 percent to pay for it.
“Passing the state exchange bill will automatically restore the 90-day open enrollment period and give New Jersey consumers more protection and a more seamless enrollment process,” said Collinsgru.
Senate Majority Office says there’s no holdup
The Senate Majority Office said the bill isn’t being held up; that, in fact, it’s still being worked on to expand the legislation for all Medicaid eligible residents.
A statement from Sweeney reads, “This will streamline the entire process for consumers, eliminate delays and duplication, help ensure that everyone gets the coverage they need…”
“Actually, there’s a federal requirement. There’s a ‘no wrong door’ requirement at the federal level. New Jersey has no choice but to do this so I’m sure that it’s going to be done in the exchange. Anyone who wants Medicaid is going to be able to go into the state exchange and apply for assistance,” said New Jersey Policy Perspective health policy director Ray Castro.
But Sweeney’s office said including the Medicaid provision will give the state more access to federal funds than without it, saying, “We are fully committed to establishing a state exchange and we are prepared to get it done as quickly as possible, but we have to make sure it is done right or we risk creating a flawed system that fails to serve the needs of New Jersey’s residents. It should not be rushed.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, Sweeney’s office confirmed the bills won’t be scheduled for a vote until the details are finalized, adding they don’t want a repeat of the clumsy federal Affordable Care Act rollout.