Health insurance exchange passes Senate

TRENTON – The Senate released the “New Jersey Health Benefit Exchange Act,” bill that would create a statewide health insurance exchange, as called for by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The bill, S1319/A2171 is sponsored by Sen. Nia Gill, (D-34), of Montclair, and Sen. Joseph Vitale, (D-19), of Woodbridge.

It passed 22-13, along party lines.

The exchange would be run by an eight-member board of directors. The commissioners of banking and insurance and human services would serve as nonvoting members.

The governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, would appoint five of the members. The members on the board would serve on a part-time basis for an annual salary of $50,000.

The board would create a Basic Health Plan, consistent with the provisions of the federal act. The board will also establish the State Business Health Options Program to assist participating employers in facilitating the enrollment of their employees in qualified plans.

Eligible employers would include as of January 2014 employers with at least two but no more than 50 employees; beginning January 2016, those with from 51 to 100 employees, and, beginning January 2017, those with more than 100 employees.

The bill would also establish the New Jersey Health Benefit Exchange Trust Fund in the Department of Treasury as a “non-lapsing revolving fund.”

Sen. Robert Singer, (R-30), Lakewood, called the bill “premature,” especially since the federal government is providing extensions to other states on the program.  The Supreme Court is due to hear arguments later this month on the constitutionality of the law, dubbed Obamacare. It is possible all or portions of the law could be struck down by the court.

Singer called for having people from the Banking and Insurance and Human Services departments work on this issue, as opposed to having appointees serve on a board, each of whom would receive $50,000.

“By paying $50,000, we’re creating another bureaucracy,” he said. “We are trying to make government smaller.”  

Health insurance exchange passes Senate