GILL CALLS ON CHRISTIE ADMIN TO USE $7.6M TO PROMOTE HEALTH EXCHANGE, AFTER FEDS GREEN LIGHT UTILIZING GRANT FOR MARKETING PURPOSES

Senator Nia H. Gill on the floor of the Senate

 TRENTON – State Senator Nia H. Gill today called on the Christie Administration to immediately submit a plan to federal officials to use $7.6 million in grant funding to promote the federally-operated health exchange in New Jersey. The call comes as the state faces a Thursday deadline to submit an appropriate request to federal officials to use the funding before the grant expires, and after the senator received confirmation from federal officials that the funding may be used for statewide marketing activities.

 

“New Jersey received this grant from the federal government two years ago. It is incomprehensible that the administration has failed to submit an acceptable plan to use this funding, and is now due to allow millions of dollars in vitally needed funds to expire,” said Senator Gill, D-Essex/Passaic, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. “Far too many New Jerseyans remain unaware of their ability to access health insurance on the marketplace and their potential eligibility for subsidies from the federal government. We have an opportunity to use this funding to reach those in need of healthcare throughout the state and to ensure they have the information they need to get covered. The administration has an obligation to act, and it must do so immediately. If they fail to meet the deadline, state officials must explain fully why they would leave behind this funding to the detriment of our state. The administration’s decision-making process concerning this funding has not been transparent, and the public deserves better.”

 

The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) received a Level One Establishment Grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services in the amount of $7.67 million on Feb. 22, 2012 for the purposes of planning and implementing a state-based marketplace in New Jersey. The federal government has permitted states like New Jersey that opted for a federally-run exchange to utilize the funding for approved purposes.

 

Senator Gill sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last month seeking information as to whether the grant could be used to educate consumers about their health care options on the marketplace, after DOBI Commissioner Ken Kobylowski testified during a Commerce Committee hearing that the state was in “active discussions with the federal government on the use of the funds.” The senator received a letter from federal officials confirming that states may conduct statewide marketing activities to promote the marketplace, provided they meet federal guidance.

 

“More than two months ago, the commissioner said DOBI was in discussions with the federal government on these funds. The deadline is now upon us and we have yet to hear how the administration would even propose using the $7.6 million,” said Senator Gill. “It would be completely irresponsible to leave millions of dollars on the table that could be used to get vital health information to the public. Now that we have received confirmation that this funding can be used for marketing, there is no excuse not to act. The administration must immediately submit a plan to utilize this funding before the grant expires. The clock is ticking.”