Health Exchange Bills Debated

Two bills that would create the framework for New Jersey’s “health exchanges” are moving through the Legislature, despite objections from business groups. Health exchanges are the marketplaces where individuals and small groups will be able to buy health insurance plans under the national reform initiative.

The Senate Commerce Committee released S1319 this week after a four-hour hearing in which CIANJ and other business advocacy organizations called for amendments.

In testimony CIANJ said: “We want to make certain that the exchange fosters a robust competitive market that will insure health care costs are affordable, have a more precise estimate of costs and develop a governing board that makes the best decisions possible by accessing the full breadth of knowledge available across all related professions.”

CIANJ questioned why the sponsors selected an “active purchaser” model which would screen carriers and determine which can be certified to participate.

“Given the ever shrinking number of health plans willing to participate in the New Jersey Individual Health insurance market, it will be difficult for the exchange to develop the critical mass necessary to offer a robust set of consumer options unless all willing carriers are able to participate,” CIANJ noted in testimony.

Business advocates also raised objections to the composition of the governing board since employers, health plan brokers and providers were excluded. CIANJ reasoned that it would be short-sighted to overlook the expertise these individuals can offer.

The Commerce Committee voted 4-2, along party lines, to release the bill. Earlier last month the Assembly Health Committee also moved its version of the bill, A2171.