Measure Will Create Joint Legislative Task Force
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Commerce Chairwoman Nia H. Gill and Senate Health Chairman Joseph Vitale to ensure oversight of the implementation and operation of a federal health exchange in New Jersey received final approval today by the General Assembly. The measure 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 important to ensure that residents who are uninsured and underinsured are able to access affordable, quality health coverage. Although the governor decided 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.”
“Federal health reform will provide hundreds of thousands of our residents with the ability to gain access to affordable health care coverage,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “It is our responsibility to ensure that the centerpiece of this effort – the health exchange – is operating in a way that provides the most benefit to New Jersey residents. This task force is an essential part of doing that, as it will allow us to closely monitor its implementation and operation and ensure we are informed about the process if we are required to act legislatively on a matter involving the exchange.”
Senators Gill and Vitale were the sponsors 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 Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR-144) will 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 health exchange will be a vital point of access for New Jersey residents who are uninsured and underinsured to gain coverage,” said Senator Vitale. “As we move forward with implementation, it will be important for the Legislature to ensure that the exchange is achieving the goals of the federal law, including meeting the health care needs of our residents. This task force will provide ongoing oversight of this process and provide input to ensure its effective operation.”
“The Affordable Care Act provides for states that opt for a federally-created exchange to assume an increased role in the process, including providing an option to take over the process entirely in the future,” said Senator Gill. “Given this option, the evolving nature of the health insurance market and the possibility for changes in state policy with regard to our role in the exchange, it is important to establish a task force to oversee and develop recommendations, on an on-going basis, for the a health insurance exchange.”
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. The Assembly approved it by a vote of 46-30-2.