The Star-Ledger

Obamacare Is Off To A Strong Start In NJ, Despite Naysayers

The Star-Ledger — Wednesday, April 2, 2014

By Star-Ledger Guest Columnist
Maura Collinsgru

As the first open enrollment period draws to a close, more than 7 million people living in this country have secured health insurance coverage, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Despite predictions to the contrary, enrollment across the nation appears to have outpaced projections.

New Jersey is no exception. Despite technology glitches, no paid media campaign and a governor who refused to promote enrollment — even turning away $7.6 million from the federal government — the Affordable Care Act enrollment effort has been a huge success.

Going into the final month of enrollment, New Jersey ranked 15th in the nation, having enrolled 74,000 into qualified health plans through the marketplace, meeting 97 percent of the state's goal set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Another 123,000 were determined eligible for the state's Medicaid program. Add to that the tens of thousands who applied directly through NJ FamilyCare, and New Jersey is on track to enroll more than 200,000 residents into coverage.

The success of the enrollment can be attributed not only to the grassroots street campaign that outreach and enrollment workers have waged over these many months, but also to the fact that the Affordable Care Act offers consumers the coverage they have wanted, needed and can now afford.

But enrollment is just the beginning. Now federal and state government, providers, advocates and consumers must come together to build on this initial success and ensure that the Affordable Care Act can fulfill its promises of delivering a better, more cost-effective and efficient health care system.

Instead of continuing to proclaim the Affordable Care Act a failure, it is time for the Christie administration to step up and support the reform that is benefiting hundreds of thousands of our residents, as well as our economy.

What would a supportive administration look like? For one, it would ensure newly enrolled consumers, many of whom have had little experience with health care coverage, get the help and information they need about how to use the coverage they now have.

It would be promoting and funding efforts to reach those consumers who have yet to enroll. This includes efforts to connect the hundreds of thousands who are eligible for Medicaid but who have not yet signed on.

It would be stepping up the oversight efforts of the state's Department of Banking and Insurance, the agency charged with overseeing all insurance plans operating in the state. They must act to ensure that the coverage offered on the state's marketplace is meeting the needs of newly insured consumers. That means issues such as making sure the plans include enough health providers of all kinds to serve the tens of thousands of newly insured, and making sure the services consumers need are covered and not unfairly denied.

Between now and the next open enrollment period, Nov. 15 to Feb. 15, the marketplace will remain open to those who are eligible for Medicaid or who experience a life-changing circumstance such as a move, job loss, birth or death in the family, or divorce.

And for those who attempted to apply and were unable to complete the application through no fault of their own, it's not too late. The Obama administration is allowing a special extension for those individuals to complete their application by checking a box on the application at before April 15.

So, yes, let's pause and take a moment today to celebrate and recognize all that has been accomplished, and at the same time recommit to finishing the job we have begun to bring meaningful health care reform to all people across New Jersey and across the nation.

Maura Collinsgru is health policy advocate for New Jersey Citizen Action Education Fund, one of the lead groups involved in the statewide effort to connect uninsured New Jerseyans to coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Copyright 2014 The Star-Ledger

Top Top | NJCA Homepage | NJCA in the News