NorthJersey.com

New Jersey Needs A Health-Insurance Exchange

The Record (NorthJersey.com) — Tuesday, November 13, 2012

BY JEFF BROWN
The Record / Opinion

Jeff Brown is the policy and communications coordinator for New Jersey Citizen Action, and the spokesman for the NJ for Health Care Coalition.

WITH LAST Tuesday's election results, it is now clear that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is and will continue to be the law of the land.

Regardless of one's thoughts about the law as a whole, New Jersey has a clear and important choice to make by Nov. 16 in order to move forward. Do we control our own destiny, and create a state-based health insurance exchange, a competitive online marketplace where consumers can purchase affordable private health insurance? Or do we let the federal government run the exchange for us?

We believe our state would be best served by an exchange run by and for New Jersey, and that the New Jersey Health Benefit Exchange Act, currently sitting on Governor Christie's desk, provides the best possible framework for New Jersey's health insurance exchange.

Under the bill, New Jersey's exchange would be able to effectively respond to the needs of our citizens, save small business owners and individuals money on health care, reach our state's uninsured and prevent undue corporate influence over our insurance markets.

Bipartisan

It really should be a no-brainer. Health insurance exchanges, after all, are historically a bipartisan and pragmatic solution. Originally a product of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, and then the key piece of Mitt Romney's health reform law in Massachusetts, they are now embraced by Democrats as a major part of Obamacare.

Furthermore, we have proof that they work. Massachusetts' state-based health insurance exchange, which the New Jersey Health Benefit Exchange Act is modeled after, has kept rates down for small business owners and saved more than $91 million over the last two years by spurring competition among insurance companies.

The bottom line is that our state is currently dealing with a health care crisis. We have 1.3 million residents without health insurance, most of whom work full-time jobs. Hundreds of thousands of our small-business owners struggle to provide insurance for their families and their employees, and those that do have no choice but to accept rising rates year after year.

Solution desperately needed

Our individual market is hemorrhaging consumers by the day due to a lack of affordable options. We are in desperate need of a solution.

Like the crisis we are facing from Hurricane Sandy, where our leaders have put political differences aside to do what is right for our citizens, we need our leaders to once again put party aside and come together and do what is most pragmatic and beneficial for our state. We need Governor Christie to stand up for health care choice, quality and value, and sign the New Jersey Health Benefit Exchange Act.

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