One of Steve Sweeney’s closest allies has broken with the Senate president on Horizon OMNIA’s tiered healthcare plans. While Sweeney made his case before the Senate Commerce Committee for the cost-cutting measures Monday, Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-37) issued a statement expressing her reservations about the new plans.
Weinberg has been a valuable friend to Sweeney in his push for a constitutional amendment to bring casino gaming to North Jersey, sitting at the center of the group of Bergen Democrats who sponsored that bill.
The plans designate hospitals and other healthcare providers as ‘Tier One’ or ‘Tier Two’ depending on criteria that Horizon have not made public. First-tier placement qualifies providers for deals on patient co-pays and premiums.
Sweeney hedged his support for the plans by arguing for greater transparency in how those designations are made, also calling for patient costs and hospitals’ profit margins to be made more easily accessible. Weinberg, though, wrote that separating hospitals into tiers runs the risk of creating a distinction with a difference when it comes to patient access.
“Our prime focus must be on the ability of residents that are covered to get affordable coverage and, equally important, to adequately access health care. Horizon’s plans have the ability to limit access by harming health care institutions that are not included in particular tiers.
“One of the larger questions I have is whether individual hospitals within hospital systems were looked at independently, or if some hospitals scored lower than other independent hopsitals and may have benefitted from their participation in a system,” Weinberg said of Horizon’s criteria, which the insurance giant provided to an inquiring Senate committee but has not made public.
Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20) and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19) joined Weinberg in criticizing the bill during a press conference Monday, with Wisniewski introducing a new bill to stop enrollment in the the new plans. That effort comes after Attorney General Robert Lougy determined that Horizon broken no state laws during the rollout.
“We have to be very concerned when we see these choices being made behind closed doors,” Wisniewski said.