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N.J. Advocates Call For Education On Obamacare

Courier-Post — Thursday, December 5, 2013

Written by
Kim Mulford
Courier-Post

Getting a cancellation notice from your health insurance provider because of the new Affordable Care Act requirements?

It's not as bad as it might seem, health policy advocates from NJ for Health Care Coalition and New Jersey Policy Perspective said Wednesday during a teleconference.

Most of the state's 110,000 consumers with substandard policies can extend those policies for a full year if they renew by Dec. 31, they said. In New Jersey, it will be up to insurers to decide whether to continue offering policies that don't meet stricter ACA standards in 2014. The Senate Commerce Committee will meet today to hear testimony on the matter.

Even so, there may be more cost-effective coverage available through the federal health exchange, said Maura Collinsgru, an advocate from New Jersey Citizen Action.

But most people don't know that, she said. The advocacy groups want Gov. Chris Christie to spend federal grant money to educate consumers about their options under the Affordable Care Act.

"The government and the (Christie) administration and insurers should be informing consumers they have choices," Collinsgru said.

The governor's "passivity is really a problem for consumers," she said. "They're not hearing what they need to hear. They're not informed about their choices. They deserve a whole lot better."

The state received a $7.6 million planning grant last year to set up its own health insurance exchange.

New Jersey opted instead for the federal exchange, but the state can still use the money for marketing and outreach, said Raymond J. Castro, senior policy analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective.

Marshall McKnight, a spokesman for the state Department of Banking and Insurance, said the state is currently negotiating with the federal government "over the allowable uses of these grant funds."

The state also should use federal money it receives to expand its Medicaid program to offer subsidies to individual consumers who need help paying higher premiums, Castro said.

"You hear a lot about people who want to keep their plans, but people don't want to keep plans that are inadequate," Castro said. "What most people are concerned about is cost."

In response, Michael Drewniak, a Christie spokesman, referred a reporter to the governor's remarks in September.

"Listen," Christie said then, "I really don't care what Policy Perspective thinks."

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