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Weinberg Bill To Establish NJ Health Care Reform Implementation Council Approved

Measure Would Position New Jersey to Comply, Benefit from Federal Health Care Reform

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by State Senator Loretta Weinberg which would create the New Jersey Health Care Reform Implementation Council in order to position the State to comply with new rules and regulations and reap additional federal assistance from national health care reform was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 22-17.

“The federal health care reform law has the potential to dramatically reshape the administration of health care in this country and ensure that all people have access to decent, affordable health care,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen, and chairwoman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “We have a responsibility to cooperate and comply with the federal law, and we have an opportunity to leverage the expertise of our residents to achieve increased federal financial aid for the working poor and uninsured. We cannot let this opportunity pass us by.”

The bill, S-2239, would establish the NJ Health Care Reform Implementation Council as a 29-member panel of experts, policymakers, health care providers, academics and advocates to make recommendations for keeping New Jersey in compliance with the provisions of federal health care reform and ensure the State maximizes federal aid for which it is entitled. Under the bill, council members would serve for a period of five years, with the expiration of the first term in office staggered to continue the operations of the council, and would not receive compensation for their service, beyond being reimbursed for expenses incurred by them in the performance of their duties. The Council would be required to report to the Governor and the Legislature annually as to their activities and recommendations for policy.

The Council would be required to:

• analyze the provisions of federal health care reform and their impact on New Jersey;

• analyze and determine the best course of action to remain in compliance with the statutory and regulatory provisions related to federal health care reform;

• develop a strategic plan and timetable for the implementation of federal health care reform in New Jersey, to ensure that the State receives the maximum benefit possible under the new programs;

• coordinate the efforts of State agencies, health care providers and third party payers to implement federal health care reform.

“In his last two budgets, Governor Christie has shredded the health care safety net for the working poor and uninsured, and we have to chase down all funds for which the State is entitled to repair the damage done,” said Senator Weinberg. “Not only will this Council be charged with keeping New Jersey in compliance with the new rules and regulations associated with federal health care reform – thereby protecting existing federal aid – but they will be tasked with developing a plan to get the biggest bang for our buck in terms of return of federal health care dollars. At the end of the day, the Council will have the experience and expertise to guide policymakers in adopting health policy that puts New Jersey in a great position to increase aid to those who aren’t covered or cannot afford health insurance.”

Senator Weinberg said that while opponents have painted federal health reform in a negative light, ultimately, she feels confident that the law will result in better access for New Jerseyans in need.

“The federal health reform law is far from perfect, but I tend to think there’s more good than bad,” said Senator Weinberg. “Regardless of personal opinion, however, this is the framework that we have to work within, and whether you support or oppose the intention of federal health care reform, you still have a responsibility to follow the law. This legislation positions us to not only comply with federal health care regulations, but to benefit from increased federal aid.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

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