Last week I traveled to the gymnasium at the Woodbridge Community Center to see Gov. Phil Murphy sign legislation to protect consumers from surprise out-of-network billing.
During the bill signing, Murphy recalled a campaign-season dinner with Sen. Joseph Vitale at the nearby Reo Diner, where Murphy promised to sign an out-of-network bill if the legislature put one on his desk.
And so with a few strokes the new governor did what he promised, despite strong opposition from some quarters. For a decade, the Quality Institute has fought for these common-sense solutions so consumers who follow their insurance company rules do not find themselves suddenly facing absurdly high out-of-network bills.
A few days before the bill signing, I found myself in another gymnasium. I was at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania to see my oldest son graduate and the rain forced us all into the athletic center. The speaker was New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and I hope what he said resonated with the graduates.
I know it resonated with me.
Sen. Booker told the graduates that when they see a problem they should not assume they are powerless. You don’t know the chain of events that may emanate from even the simple act of joining a committee, or volunteering, or having your voice heard in some way — even if it seems others have more money and power than you. “You are powerful,” Booker told the Class of 2018.
I saw connections between these two gymnasium events and I thought of how all of you, our members, have raised your voices and worked for solutions to the problems you see around you — at your own facilities and organizations and more broadly in our state. From public transparency on safety performance to fixing the surprise billing issues, sometimes change seems impossible and everyone has a reason why it won’t happen. But you are powerful, and together, we are even more powerful. Our collective incremental steps are leading to better health in our state.
As you probably know, last week Governor Murphy also signed two bills that emerged from our Health Care Reform Work Group with Senator Vitale: the state-based individual mandate to stabilize the individual insurance market, and the establishment of a reinsurance program to reduce the cost of insurance premiums. Many of our members participate in a variety of our work groups, where we bring together people from every corner of health care to find solutions to the pressing problems we face.
At the Quality Institute, we’ve advocated for the out-of-network law as well as the individual mandate and reinsurance laws because we believe they will advance our mission to improve health care quality, increase transparency and reduce costs. And in these past few weeks I can see that our voices are being heard.