Marlene Caride, a former member of the New Jersey General Assembly, was named to lead the Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) in January. She took the oath of office as Commissioner in June. Recently she discussed her goals in our Take Five.

What do you think are the most important steps the department can take in the short term to help people get health insurance coverage?  

Ensuring residents have affordable quality health care in New Jersey is a priority for Gov. Murphy and for DOBI as well. In the short term, we have been educating our consumers about the different health care coverage options and we have been working to stabilize the health insurance market. If you look at the numbers, you will see that we had a 10 percent reduction in enrollment in the individual market last year versus the previous year. So one of the things we are taking seriously is educating consumers so that we can make up for that ten percent reduction.

Longer term, how can the state make health care and health insurance more affordable?

 The short-term goals go hand-in-hand with the long-term goals. The Governor has given us the green light to take control of the plan management function for the plans that are sold on the exchange. Right now, we are reviewing all of the marketplace plans to make sure they comply with both federal and state law. Also, we recently submitted a 1332 state innovation waiver application to CMS to allow us to create a reinsurance program in New Jersey. If approved, the federal government will then provide us with pass-through funding to fund some of the reinsurance program, which is intended to help make the premiums more affordable.

New Jersey recently enacted an individual mandate law to mirror the federal mandate. The goal of the mandate is to encourage more individuals to enroll in health coverage.  All of these steps to support the market will be followed by a robust consumer outreach effort.

How is implementation of the new Out-of-Network bill coming along?  How will you get the word out to consumers?

The state has been grappling with this issue for about a decade and under Gov. Murphy’s leadership we now have a law in place to protect consumers from surprise out-of-network costs. We will be notifying carriers, consumers and advocates of this new law, and undertaking a public rules process for implementation. Anyone can sign up on our website to be notified as the process progresses, through what we call the Advance Notice process. Putting together regulations will take some time. In the meantime, we will educate consumers that the law has passed and that they have protection against surprise bills.

What are your top goals for DOBI?

One of the things I have been saying is that DOBI is probably the state’s best-kept secret. We have a division that addresses consumer complaints and we need to do more to ensure that people know we are here to support them if they are having trouble with their health coverage, or any type of insurance. Some insurance companies we do not regulate and in those cases we can direct people to where they have to go for assistance. The top goal for me is to make sure that when we are making decisions we are making them with consumers in mind.

We get an array of calls. We hear from doctors who are not getting paid from insurers. We get calls from consumers who have been denied coverage, or who are hit with surprise bills. We want to make sure consumers know that DOBI is here to help them. Of course, we are the department of banking and insurance so we cover many areas. 

We would like to know more about you. What would you be doing on a day off, on a sunny afternoon?

I will be at the beach, listening to music, and reading a book. I like to tune out the world and listen to music on the beach. I like fiction and non-fiction. I love a good murder mystery. Right now I am reading John Sandford.