$7.6M On Table For ACA On N.J.

Courier-Post — Thursday, February 6, 2014

Written by
Kim Mulford

New Jersey has two weeks to submit an acceptable plan to use $7.6 million in federal Affordable Care Act funds or it will lose the money, according to a new report by New Jersey Policy Perspective.

The money is from a planning grant awarded to the state two years ago to set up its own health insurance exchange. Gov. Chris Christie decided against a state-based exchange in 2012, directing New Jersey's 900,000 uninsured residents to apply for coverage through the federal marketplace instead.

New Jersey could have received more than $100 million to set up a state exchange, the report found.

Since last year, consumer health advocates from the New Jersey for Health Care Coalition have urged the governor to use the $7.6 million for marketing and outreach. An estimated 95,000 people would not hear about the program otherwise, said Raymond Castro, senior policy analyst for N.J. Policy Perspective.

"Polls show, overall, the public is not informed about the opportunities in the marketplace," Castro said. "Those folks who really need this the most may never hear about it and therefore will not obtain health insurance."

About 6 percent of the state's 628,000 uninsured who are eligible for subsidies enrolled through the marketplace by the end of 2013, according to Castro. The state ranks about 22nd in U.S. enrollment.

During a conference call with reporters, Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., said he has written to Christie repeatedly, asking him to use federal and state money to get people enrolled.

Marshall McKnight, a spokesman for the state's Department of Banking and Insurance, said the department is still in talks with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services "on the appropriate use of these funds."

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