It’s Open Enrollment season, and, as a small employer, I’m once again turning to my broker and hearing the bad news on premium increases and limited choices for health insurance coverage in New Jersey’s Small Employer market. While there has been great energy and focus on subsidies and ways to drive competition in the individual market, the Small Employer market has been forgotten. Small businesses are the heart of our economy. Making sure these businesses can buy insurance for their employees, regardless of their age, gender, or health status, is critical to the success of our state’s cherished small businesses.
As of September 2022, there were just 276,964 people left in New Jersey’s Small Employer market. Today’s enrollment is most likely even lower. The Market, which once served nearly 1 million people, is at an historic low.
At the Quality Institute, in partnership with Senator Joe Vitale, our Health Care Affordability workgroup looked at the employer sponsored insurance market and prepared a white paper laying out the history, issues, and potential options to improve the Small Employer market. The paper was released in 2020 and updated in 2022. Since then, the State Legislature passed two bills (Bills: S.3480 | S.2824) that included some of the recommendations presented in the paper. We’re hopeful these bills are signed into law and can be implemented for 2025. It’s too late for 2024, where we expect to see, yet again, premium increases above the rates of inflation and wage growth.
For more on what to expect in Open Enrollment, read this week’s Take Five, where we interview Staci R. Grant, RHU, Vice President of the Benefits Division for Henry O. Baker Insurance Group. Staci is an essential member of our workgroup and brings years of experience and deep insight on how to find the best product for her small business clients — whether it’s a childcare center, law firm, manufacturing company, or small nonprofit organization like ours.
Creating multi-stakeholder workgroups is key to much of our success in driving solution-focused policy change. We bring together people with different perspectives, often people who do not ordinarily engage with each other. We ask them to work on solutions that will benefit the greater good, especially patients, consumers, and employers. Our work has contributed to successful changes over the decades in areas such as patient safety reporting, caregiver rights, maternity care, expanded health insurance coverage, and reforms to improve the Individual Market.
I’m thankful for our members who regularly step up to generously share their time and expertise. With your help, we will continue to shine a light on what needs improvement in New Jersey’s health care system and offer ways to fix it.