Feb. 16--Gov. Christie on Friday formally declared New Jersey will not operate its own health insurance exchange and will rely instead on the federal government to serve uninsured residents, small businesses, and others eligible for coverage under the signature piece of the Affordable Care Act.
New Jersey joins 25 other states, including Pennsylvania, that are leaving it to the federal government to run the new online insurance marketplace, designed to provide affordable health coverage for all Americans.
Friday was the deadline for states to decide.
States had a third option of operating an exchange in partnership with the federal government.
Seventeen states plus the District of Columbia are setting up their own exchanges, while seven states have opted for state-federal partnerships.
"My administration is committed to meeting our obligation to comply with the Affordable Care Act, but only in a manner that is the most effective and efficient for the residents of New Jersey and the businesses that will carry the costs of this new program," Christie wrote in a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, who heads the Department of Health and Human Services.
Christie's decision was not unexpected. In December, using similar language and citing the uncertainty of costs, he vetoed legislation that would have established a state-based health-care exchange.
Christie's letter to Sebelius spelled out a number of steps New Jersey has already taken to comply with the law and promised cooperation with the federal government "in implementing this next phase of the federal healthcare mandate."
States can also adopt a state-run exchange later.
Reaction from the Legislature's majority Democrats was relatively mute.
Senate Commerce Chairwoman Nia H. Gill (D., Essex/Passaic), who sponsored the earlier legislation vetoed by Christie, said she would introduce a bill to create a task force to oversee implementation and operation of the health insurance exchange.
Raymond Castro, senior policy analyst for the liberal New Jersey Policy Perspective, said Christie's decision was disappointing, but "probably the right one" because of "the complexity of the challenge and the lateness of the hour."
Under the health-care law, the exchanges will provide one-stop health-insurance shopping for individuals and small businesses.
They will help low-income individuals determine whether they will qualify for Medicaid coverage and allow middle-income people to buy private insurance plans, for which they may receive federal assistance help to cover their premiums.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, New Jersey has 1.35 million uninsured residents and 368,600 who are covered by individual policies.
Contact Joseph Gambardello at 856-779-3844 or [email protected].
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