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Health Care Advocates And Consumers Urge Senate To Pass Bill Authorizing State-Based Health Exchange

Insider NJ — June 25, 2019

By Insider NJ

Trenton — New Jersey Citizen Action, advocates from the New Jersey for Health Care Coalition and consumers gathered for a press conference today to urge the state Senate to pass S3807, which would establish a state-based health care exchange. The state Assembly passed similar legislation on June 20th, but the full Senate has yet to vote on its version of the bill. Delaying a vote past July 1st could result in New Jersey missing federal deadlines that have to be met in order to create a functioning state exchange by 2020.

"We urge the Senate to prioritize and pass this legislation immediately because we are on a critically short timeline," said Maura Collinsgru, convener of the New Jersey for Health Care Coalition and Health Care Program Director for New Jersey Citizen Action. "Not passing the bill before July 1st jeopardizes New Jersey's chances at creating a state-based health care exchange that will better serve the needs of New Jersey residents and protect them against destructive policies coming out of Washington."

Currently New Jersey is one of 34 states that rely on the federal exchange and its website HealthCare.gov for individuals to enroll in health insurance available under the Affordable Care Act. But as the Trump administration continues to undermine the ACA more states are considering establishing their own state exchange. Actions taken by the Trump administration have included gutting funding for outreach, enrollment assistance and advertising, as well as halving the open enrollment period for those seeking ACA plans, making it much more difficult for individuals to enroll in coverage.

A state-based health care exchange would allow New Jersey to extend the open enrollment period back to 90 days, control its own outreach and enrollment funding, and the flexibility to address new plan designs to meet the needs of state residents. But the Legislature must first pass legislation authorizing the exchange before New Jersey can begin the process of creating one. The state must secure a vendor to set up the exchange and submit a completed application to the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services no later than August 1st, 15 months before the exchange would start up.

New Jersey health consumer advocates and residents urged the Senate to vote and pass its bill before the window of opportunity closed.

"New Jersey has an opportunity to preserve and improve upon important gains in recent years by creating a state-based health care exchange," said Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey. "Deadlines are looming so we need to act now for an exchange that could increase affordability and transparency, improve access, and reduce health care disparities."

"Failure to establish a state health care exchange is nothing less than irresponsible, especially when there is such a great need for affordable health coverage," said Ray Castro, Health Policy Director at New Jersey Policy Perspective. "Without a state exchange, thousands of vulnerable New Jerseyans would be denied the affordable, quality health coverage they desperately need and the state would forfeit major federal funds that could further stimulate the economy. This should not be another political game in the statehouse — health coverage can make the deference between life and death. All of the legislators in Trenton have guaranteed affordable health coverage; their constituents deserve the same."

"A state exchange will also give the state vital flexibility to extend healthcare access going forward," said Andrew Sprung of Blue Wave New Jersey. "Failure to pass the enabling legislation this month would be a major setback for affordable health insurance access in New Jersey."

"New Jersey residents made it clear by the 2018 election results how much they value the protections to their health insurance and access to healthcare of the ACA," said Marie Henselder-Kimmel a retired OB/GYN. "Healthcare remains a number one concern of New Jersey voters. We need the New Jersey Senate to listen to the concerns of New Jerseyans and act now to pass the state healthcare exchange bill and the ACA protection bill."

"Defending and improving health care should be a policy priority for all Democrats, and we applaud New Jersey's Assembly for passing their legislation that would establish the exchange," said Collinsgru. "We urge the Senate to do the same as soon as possible.

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