Published by Michael L. Diamond in the Asbury Park Press
Murphycare could look a lot like Obamacare.
Lawmakers Thursday sent to Gov. Phil Murphy a bill that will require nearly all New Jerseyans to have health insurance or pay a penalty, in a bid to stabilize premiums for consumers in the Obamacare marketplace.
They approved another bill that would set up a reinsurance plan that would be paid partly for by the federal government and cover some of the most expensive health care claims.
“It’s a two-pronged attack to get at premium costs,” said Linda Schwimmer, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, a research and advocacy group.
The mandate bill passed 23-13 in the Senate and 50-23 in the Assembly. The reinsurance bill passed 22-14 in the Senate and 46-22 in the Assembly. Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal in the video above discusses the state’s plans to protect Obamacare.
The bills would most directly affect consumers who don’t get health insurance through Medicare or their employer. About 275,000 people in New Jersey were covered in the individual market, according to federal data released this month.
They are steps by the Democrat-controlled Legislature to protect the Affordable Care Act in the face of opposition from the Trump administration and Congress.
The Trump administration eliminated the contentious provision for 2019 as part of the tax reform law, and it turned its attention to giving states more flexibility to offer less expensive — and less comprehensive — plans.
New Jersey long has required insurance companies to provide “essential” benefits that mirrored Obamcare: hospitalization, maternity care and preventive care such as colorectal screenings, to name a few.
The bill headed to Murphy would penalize consumers who purchase a plan that doesn’t include comprehensive benefits.
Most New Jersey consumers buying health insurance through the Obamacare marketplace have an income that is low enough to qualify for subsidies. If they don’t, the price is steep; a four-person family pays about $23,000 a year, according to New Jersey Policy Perspective, a left-leaning research group.
A recent Rutgers University poll found just 40 percent of New Jerseyans thought the state should continue the mandate, but health care experts have said it would help stabilize premiums.
Without it, they said, young, healthy people would drop out of the market, leaving older and less healthy people stuck with the bill, making health care even less affordable.
“Health insurance works when everyone is in,” state Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, and one of the bill’s sponsors, said last month.
The reinsurance bill would create a program to pay for high-cost patients. It would be funded by both the federal government and insurance companies. And the money would be kept in a newly created fund at the Treasury Department.
Minnesota created a reinsurance program for 2018. Its Blue Cross Blue Shield plan said it raised premiums just 2.8 percent this year.
Michael L. Diamond; @mdiamondapp; 732-643-4038; firstname.lastname@example.org