Published by NJ.com
President Trump’s sabotage of the Affordable Care Act was wreaking havoc, causing insurers in New Jersey to hike premiums by double digits for the first time this year.
They would have spiked even higher next year, had our state not done more than any other to protect consumers. We’ve become accustomed to government in Trenton being a sometimes-literal train wreck, from NJ Transit to the pension crisis.
But here, it did exceptionally well, with smart and timely countermoves. Legislators fought back with an aggressive triple punch: They passed a law that requires everyone to buy health insurance, after Trump effectively killed the so-called individual mandate.
They created a program to insure the costliest patients with a mix of federal and state dollars, called reinsurance. And they banned junk plans with stingy benefits.
Experts predicted we’d have the lowest increase in insurance costs in the nation in 2019, as a result.
But the latest news is even better: We’ll actually lower prices, by an average of more than 9 percent in the individual market. This is terrific, and only possible because Sen. Joseph Vitale insisted on this muscular approach, and Gov. Phil Murphy signed it into law.
They’ve made New Jersey the state that has most effectively dealt with Republican attacks on Obamacare. Lowering health care costs ultimately lowers costs for everybody, including businesses. It’s one of the most important things we can do to improve our business climate.
The hundreds of thousands of people who buy their health insurance in the marketplace will save; and because rates will go down, thousands more are expected to enroll. Those who get insurance through their jobs will also benefit, because one way or another, we all pay for people who don’t buy insurance until they get sick.
When they show up in the emergency room, the bill falls to the rest of us, in what’s known as charity care. Requiring everyone to carry insurance means hospitals reduce their charity care expenses, don’t need as much money from the state and don’t have to shift the costs of treating the uninsured to paying patients.
All reasons why we must require health insurance, as we do auto insurance on the road. We want these plans to be fair, and not discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. We want them to offer decent benefits. But to make the marketplace work, we need everyone in the pool, so we spread the cost.
Republicans like Paul Ryan argue the “fatal conceit” of the Affordable Care Act is that “the people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick.” This is the very essence of how insurance works, so it is no surprise that their attacks on the law threaten to strip coverage from millions.
The legal fight over the Affordable Care Act drags on, with 20 Attorneys General from red states suing to block the law and Democratic AGs, including New Jersey’s Gurbir Grewal, defending its protections, including those for people with pre-existing conditions.
It will also be on the ballot this fall, when voters decide who takes control of Congress. If we re-elect Republicans like Congressman Tom MacArthur, R-3rd Dist., a leader in the effort to kill Obamacare, the GOP may return to its repeal effort.
The danger of all this being exploded is ever-present, given that they were just one vote away from achieving a repeal in the Senate. New Jersey has proven its willingness to step up and fight for our health coverage. Now, will voters do the same in November?