Democratic Senators Want Horizon Investigated For Hoarding Its Surplus

TRENTON – Three Senate Democrats – Loretta Weinberg, Ellen Karcher and Barbara Buono – today unveiled plans to investigate whether Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield is hoarding its $1.25 billion surplus to the detriment of the vulnerably uninsured, small businesses and New Jersey taxpayers.

“Our goal is to shut down any hoarding so Horizon can’t shirk its mandate to expand access to quality health care while keeping rates affordable,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “I sense there’s up to $500 million available in Horizon’s vaults that could be freed up to help people get access to health care.”

“Families and small business owners are struggling hard to pay for health insurance and there’s another million residents without any health coverage,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “We need to check the books and spread the wealth to help those who need it most.”

“Something’s gone amok with the concept of a non-profit health service corporation like Horizon when its surplus grows by hundreds of millions of dollars a year, but its rates keep rising too,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex.

By Horizon’s own records for the last five years, its year-end surplus has grown dramatically – from $561.4 million in 2001 to $1.25 billion at the end of 2005. Meanwhile, families and small business owners buying health insurance have faced double-digit increases in their premiums for the last three reported years.

“Horizon has to be held accountable to its unique status as the recipient of special treatment by the State as a non-profit corporation, but one also with the special responsibility as the State’s largest (health) insurer to keep its charitable commitment,” said Senator Weinberg.

The three Senate Democrats promoted two legislative options for consideration by their colleagues. One bill (S-1520), sponsored by Sens. Weinberg and Karcher, would cap Horizon’s surplus at a safe level to be set by the Department of Banking and Insurance and allocate the excess to charity care. A second measure, being introduced today and sponsored by Sens. Weinberg and Buono, would authorize DOBI to investigate Horizon, determine a suitable surplus amount and then direct its excess funds to a special “Quality Health and Wellness Fund” that would parcel out dedicated money to supplement any existing State programs which promote health improvements for New Jersey residents.