Measure Would Create Joint Legislative Task Force
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Commerce Chairwoman Nia H. Gill to ensure oversight of the implementation and operation of a federal health exchange in New Jersey was approved today by the full Senate. The bill was introduced in response to Governor Christie’s decision to turn over creation of New Jersey’s health exchange to the federal government.
“The health exchange is critically important to ensuring that residents who are uninsured and underinsured are able to access affordable, quality health coverage. Despite the governor’s decision to turn over its creation to the federal government, we still have an obligation to ensure our exchange is both efficient and effective and that is meets the unique needs of our residents,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). “This task force will provide a measure of oversight that will allow the Legislature to track progress of the exchange, so that we are prepared to make recommendations or to take legislative action if necessary.”
Senator Gill was the sponsor of two bills that laid out the framework for creating a state-based health insurance exchange, both of which were vetoed by the governor. The governor announced in February that he had opted for a federally-administered exchange.
The measure (SCR-144) would create a task force charged with overseeing and developing recommendations for the implementation of a health exchange in accordance with the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The “Joint Legislative Task Force on Health Insurance Exchange Implementation” would also develop recommendations on the scope of the state’s role in health insurance exchange operations to ensure that the state benefits to the maximum extent practicable from the exchange. In addition, the panel would make recommendations as would best ensure a coordinated effort among state agencies, health care providers, third party providers and the federal government to implement the heath exchange in New Jersey.
“The president’s health reform law allows states that have opted for a federal exchange to assume an increased role in the process in the future, including the ability to take over entirely its operations,” said Senator Gill. “Given this option and the prospect for future changes in state policy with regard to our role in the exchange, it is vital that we ensure adequate oversight and involvement by the Legislative Branch of government.”
The task force would be comprised of 12 members, with appointments made by the Senate President, the Speaker, the Senate and Assembly minority leaders as well as the chairs of the committees overseeing health and insurance issues in each house. The task force would be required to provide the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the General Assembly with quarterly updates of its activities, findings, conclusions, and recommendations for legislation or administrative action. In addition, the task force would be required to issue annual reports of its activities, findings, conclusions, and recommendations for legislation or administrative action, including any recommendations to expand the role of the State in implementing the health insurance exchange in New Jersey, to the Governor, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the General Assembly, and the Minority Leaders of the Senate and General Assembly with the first annual report being issued one year after the date of enactment of the resolution.
The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 22-16. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.