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Senate President Pro Temp Nia H. Gill, D-Essex and Passaic, discusses a nominee during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

TRENTON – Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Nia H. Gill convened a hearing of the committee today to discuss the state’s decision to allow insurance companies to decide whether to extend expiring health insurance plans that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act’s minimum standards. Below is the senator’s opening statement as prepared for delivery:

“Last month, the federal government announced new rules concerning insurance plans that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act. This new “transitional policy” allowed insurers to continue to sell certain health plans through 2014 that do not comply with quality standards contained in the ACA. The federal government left it to state insurance regulators to decide whether to utilize this option.

“This hearing is not about whether or not this committee agrees with the Affordable Care Act. It is also not about the administration’s decision on the exchange. The Joint Legislative Task Force on Health Insurance Exchange will provide a forum for that discussion, and I am sure there will be a robust debate when the task force meets.

“Today, however, the Committee will receive testimony from the Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner to discuss the Department’s decision to allow each individual health insurance company to unilaterally decide whether to continue to sell health insurance policies that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act’s minimum coverage requirement and are scheduled to expire.

“The Department of Banking and Insurance is statutorily obligated and “committed to protecting and educating consumers regarding insurance”. It is also vital to have transparency about the decision making process so that the consumer can be educated about their healthcare options and make an informed decision as to what plans are best for them and their families. Therefore, the Committee will focus on how the Department arrived at its decision and how this decision will impact the consumer. The committee will also explore what actions the state and insurers have taken, or will take, to protect and educate the 800,000 New Jerseyans whose healthcare plans are set to expire. We will also hear from invited health policy experts and stakeholders.

“Our interest is in how this decision will impact consumers who have received notices that their policies could be cancelled. It is in providing clarity to residents about their health care options in light of the state’s move to allow insurers to decide on whether to continue expiring plans. More importantly, it is about ensuring that the residents of New Jersey are protected.”

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