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The Conference Room: Health Insurance Exchanges

by Editorial Staff--South Jersey Biz

Kathleen Davis, executive vice president and COO for the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, testified earlier this month before the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee on the New Jersey Health Benefit Exchange Act—A-2171 (Conaway/Singleton/ Chivukula/Ramos).

The concept of health insurance exchanges was created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (PPACA) in 2010. These exchanges are to provide a centralized marketplace for individuals and small employers to purchase health insurance coverage. The federal law requires that all states have a health insurance exchange fully certified and operational by Jan. 1, 2014; so, the New Jersey Legislature is now working to pass legislation that will create New Jersey’s own exchange.

During her testimony, Davis discussed several aspects of the bill that the Chamber supports and offered several ideas to improve the legislation. She testified to the issues that are most important to the small business community, including: maintaining employers as the decision-makers for employee health benefits plans, and allowing employers to control costs and flexibility in choosing plans they can afford that meet the needs of their employees. She also pointed out that the CCSNJ supports a competition-based model that allows any insurer that meets requisite standards prescribed by federal and state law to market their plans through the exchange. This will foster competition among health insurers and provide more choice for consumers.

Further, the exchange should not duplicate existing services—in essence, take on functions currently performed in the private sector (billing, enrollment, and claims payment functions). And, finally, that the navigator program should serve as a supplement to (not supplant the services of) certified agents and brokers, and that navigators should be appropriately regulated and licensed.

The bill passed the Assembly committee with amendments by a vote of 7-2 with two committee members abstaining. The amended bill included a change that will now allow a representative from the small employer community to sit on the advisory council of the exchange. Chairman Herb Conaway, MD (D-7) indicated he was still willing to work with stakeholders on improving the legislation and would consider further amendments as the bill makes its way through the legislature. The Chamber will continue to be a strong leader on this issue as the debate over the creation of health insurance exchanges continues.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 2, Issue 2 (February, 2012).
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