Pallone: N.J. should use $7.5M in federal money for health care marketplace outreach

One of New Jersey’s congressman is calling on the state to use federal grant money for public awareness and to help enroll people in the health care marketplace.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, (D-6), wants Gov. Chris Christie to use the $7.5 million available under the Affordable Care Act for outreach to help get people signed up for the marketplace that began on Oct. 1.

“It is critical that you take action on behalf of New Jersey families to find appropriate ways to spend the approximately $7.5 million that the state has access to,” Pallone wrote in a letter to Christie.

“While this money may not be enough to reach each and every family in need, it can be a great start in telling New Jerseyans about their health coverage options,” Pallone wrote in the letter he made public today. 

“Any further delay in this outreach could cost many families the ability to get coverage by January 1, 2014.  While the federal marketplace enrollment period will end on March 31, 2014, families must sign up by December 23, 2013 in order to get coverage on the first day of the New Year,” Pallone wrote.  

Christie chose not to operate a state-run exchange, but to allow the federal government to operate it, citing uncertainties over costs as one consideration.

In addition, the whole “Obamacare’’ rollout has become a debacle, with well-publicized computer backups preventing people from enrolling at the start.

Two weeks ago the state announced that it would let individual health insurance companies decide on their own whether to retain or cancel so-called substandard basic and essential plans for residents.

Approximately 800,000 insured people in New Jersey will be affected by loss of such coverage during the course of 2014. President Obama had urged insurers to maintain such non-compliant ACA coverage next year, but he left the decision up to each state.

At a Senate hearing last week, the head of the state’s Banking and Insurance Department said the administration decided to let the market dictate decisions rather than impose a state mandate.

Sen. Nia Gill had inquired at that hearing into the possibility of the state using some of that $7.5 million in federal money at help educate the people who have the basic and essential coverage about what their options might be.

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Pallone: N.J. should use $7.5M in federal money for health care marketplace outreach