Trenton – In an effort to connect as many New Jerseyans as possible with affordable health insurance, the Senate Commerce Committee today advanced legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Nellie Pou which would help uninsured residents receive information on eligibility for free or low-cost health insurance. Residents would simply check a box on their tax returns or unemployment insurance applications to participate in the program.
“As of 2019, 692,000 New Jerseyans were without health insurance, a number which has likely gone up following the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health and access to adequate services are major priorities, therefore, it is critical that we are doing all that we can to bring that number down and connect eligible residents to subsidized coverage,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “This legislation will jump-start the application process, allowing residents to simply check a box and get information on their eligibility for Medicaid or other low-cost options. Similar programs have seen great success in other states around the country and I am hopeful it will increase enrollment in health insurance here in New Jersey.”
The bill, S-1646, would require the Department of Banking and Insurance to establish the New Jersey Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Program, which would use tax return and unemployment insurance data to identify individuals who sign up for information on health insurance and are interested in obtaining minimum essential coverage. The bill would allow the state to run eligibility determinations for free or low-cost health insurance and sign up interested individuals for FamilyCare plans.
“Especially given the staggering unemployment rates plaguing our state, it is likely the number of uninsured New Jerseyans has grown over the last year,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic/Bergen). “Through this legislation, the Department of Banking and Insurance will be able to identify individuals and families who may be eligible for subsidized health insurance and guide them through the application process. This will go a long way in connecting as many eligible individuals as possible to much-needed coverage.”
Under the bill, a tax filer or unemployment applicant would be able to opt-in to the program by checking a box, indicating they would like DOBI to check if they are eligible. The program is voluntary and data will only be used if individuals check the box. Those who opt-in, and are eligible would be automatically enrolled in Medicaid. Others would be referred to the Exchange to determine if they qualify for subsidies.
This innovative approach helped connect 18,000 taxpayers in Maryland to health insurance affordability information in the program’s first year. New Jersey had approximately 692,000 uninsured residents in 2019 and those numbers are expected to increase with job losses resulting from the pandemic. This bill will get critical information to residents to ensure they can secure the health insurance they need during this public health crisis.
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 5-0.