Published by Anthony Bellano on the Princeton Patch.
PRINCETON, NJ — Princeton Councilwoman Heather Howard has been named to New Jersey Governor-Elect Phil Murphy’s transition team. Howard, a former state Commissioner of Health and Senior Services and current Princeton University lecturer, has been named to Murphy’s healthcare committee.
“Health care coverage touches every New Jerseyan,” Howard said on Tuesday. “We want to make sure this is a seamless transition. During the election, he talked about making the system work better. It’s exciting to be working on this.”
Howard spoke about the need to make sure New Jersey takes advantage of every opportunity under federal law. Healthcare has been a hot-button topic for years, and Howard described the Affordable Care Act as “under attack.”
Donald Trump has been trying to repeal the act since he was elected president last year. His decision last month to cease payments the federal government makes to states to keep healthcare costs down for low-income residents could leave 126,000 New Jersey residents could be impacted. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan research and policy institutes, said each person could lose, on average, $1,150 in federal subsidies – at least $144.9 million for the whole state.
Others, such as the advocacy group New Jersey Citizens Action, said as many as 145,000 people could depend on the subsidies — at least $160 million for the whole state.
The total New Jersey enrollment via the ACA marketplace is 244,000. 126,000 of those – 52 percent—are eligible for the “Cost Sharing Reduction” subsidies, otherwise known as CSRs, according to the New Jersey Hospital Association.
Howard, who teaches about health policy and the Affordable Care Act at the university, said it will be a challenge to protect the gains that had been made in New Jersey under the act.
As the Democratic candidate for governor, Murphy pledged to lower insurance premiums by reigning in excessive out-of-network costs. He also pledged to ensure that all children receive healthcare coverage and expand access to addiction treatment and services.
He also promised to restore state funding to Planned Parenthood while making sure women in the state have access to all-FDA approved methods of contraception with no out-of-pocket costs.
“I’ve been very impressed with him, and I’m excited to work with his team,” Howard said.
She did say she had no intention of joining his administration on a permanent basis.
“I enjoyed being a commissioner, but I also enjoy working at Princeton University,” Howard said.
She was the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services under former Gov. Jon Corzine. She was elected to office in Princeton Borough as a Democrat, and re-elected to Princeton Council in 2015, after helping lead the consolidation between the borough and the township.
According to nj.com, the other members of Murphy’s healthcare transition team include Omar Baker, Shereef Elnahal, Balpreet Grewal-Virk, Valerie Harr, Linda Schwimmer and Maria Vizcarrondo. Schwimmer is the President and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute and is a member of the Princeton Board of Health, of which Howard is the council liaison.
“I’m proud to be part of such a strong and diverse team,” Howard said. “We’re going to make sure we hit the ground running and take on all challenges.”