Senate Approves Vitale-Singleton Bills To Protect the Benefits of Federal Health Care Law In NJ

NJ Would Be First State In The Country To Enact Law Protecting Mandate Against Pending Repeal

TRENTON – Acting to protect New Jersey from President Trump’s attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and to preserve the health care benefits the law is providing to the state’s residents, Senator Joe Vitale and Senator Troy Singleton are advancing two bills that would maintain the viability of the individual mandate and establish a reinsurance fund to help stabilize the insurance market. Both measures were approved by the Senate today.

If the mandate bill is enacted, New Jersey would be the first state in the country to act to protect the mandate of the national health insurance program since President Trump signed a law that would essentially eliminate required participation that is at the core of the mandate on January 1, 2019.

“The repeal of the individual mandate will have severe consequences on the affordability and availability of health care,” said Senator Vitale. “Protecting the long-term viability of the individual mandate is needed to maintain a foundation for the insurance market and to allow the success of the ACA to continue.”

In New Jersey, the ACA enabled more than 800,000 additional residents to obtain health insurance, including 500,000 who qualified for expanded Medicaid coverage and 300,000 who purchased plans through the individual insurance market. Uninsured rates dropped from 13.2 percent before the law took full effect in 2014 to 8.7 percent, the lowest in three decades.

The bill maintaining the mandate, S-1877, entitled the “New Jersey Health Insurance Market Preservation Act,” would continue the requirement that every New Jersey resident obtain health insurance coverage, essentially adopting the rules of the ACA. It was approved with a Senate vote of 22-13.

Massachusetts is the only state to have its own mandate, but it was put in place by then Governor Mitt Romney years before the federal law was enacted.

“The federal tax law recently adopted by President Trump included the upcoming repeal of the individual mandate,” said Senator Singleton. “The magnitude of the consequences of that decision will usher in an era of higher health insurance costs for everyone and lower health coverage rates.”

The fee imposed by the bill would be assessed and collected according to a program established by the Commissioner of Banking and Insurance, which would also determine exemptions for “religious conscience or hardship.”

The other measure, S-1878, would allow for a reinsurance program to bring more stability to an insurance market that has been destabilized by the actions and inactions of the Trump Administration. The legislation, entitled the “New Jersey Health Insurance Premium Security Act,” would direct the Commissioner of Banking and Insurance to apply for a federal waiver of provisions of the ACA to support a reinsurance program to control premiums in the New Jersey. It would establish a board that would work with the state insurance commissioner to design the plan. It was approved with a Senate vote of 22-14.

“The ACA’s ‘Section 1332 waivers’ offer a promising avenue for states to create reinsurance funds to bring more stability and certainty to a marketplace that has been undermined by the Trump Administration, driving up consumer costs,” said Senator Vitale. “We seize the opportunity to take the actions available to hold down expenses for services that improve health care middle class families and others.”

States can obtain a state Innovation Waiver from the federal government – also called a 1332 waiver – to establish a reinsurance program to lower premiums, offsetting increases due to the mandate repeal and other federal actions.

Senator Vitale and Senator Singleton said it is important to move on these bills in a timely way in order to comply with federal requirements.