Jun. 28--New Jersey lawmakers approved a bill Thursday to create a state-operated health insurance exchange for policies that would go into effect in 2021, making good on a priority of Gov. Phil Murphy to protect Obamacare.
The move would allow the state to give consumers more time to sign up for coverage, reversing a Trump administration decision to shorten the open enrollment period, advocates said.
"We're really excited the state has finally taken steps to do this, and it's something we can build on," said Maura Collingru, health care program director for New Jersey Citizen Action, a consumer group.
The Senate voted 24-12 to approve the bill. It previously passed the Assembly, 52-25. It needs to be signed by Murphy.
The bill's passage came despite a feud between Murphy and his fellow Democrat, Senate President Stephen Sweeney. And it just beat a looming deadline; the state needs to submit its plan to create its own exchange to the federal government by Aug. 1.
The exchange was created as part of the Affordable Care Act, giving consumers who didn't get health coverage through Medicare or their employer a place to shop for policies and apply for subsidies that, depending on their income, could lower the cost of the premiums.
Under former Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey left the exchange's operation to the federal government. But the Trump administration did little to help consumers sign up and instead shortened the open enrollment period from 90 days to six weeks.
Obamacare proponents have said the administration's moves amount to sabotage.
Even though New Jersey lawmakers have taken steps to piece the Affordable Care Act back together, including a reinstating a mandate that residents have insurance or pay a penalty, enrollment has slipped. Watch the video at the top of this story to learn more about the efforts.
The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance recently reported that 315,359 New Jerseyans were enrolled in the individual market in the first quarter, down 4 percent from the same quarter last year.
A state-based exchange wouldn't be ready to operate until 2020, meaning consumers this fall still would use the federal exchange.
Michael L. Diamond; 732-643-4038; [email protected]; @mdiamondapp
(c)2019 the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.)
Visit the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.) at www.app.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.