By Louise Norris
March 31, 2014
Open enrollment in New Jersey ends on March 31. But HHS is allowing an extension for applicants who begin the process by that date, but are unable to complete their enrollment by the end of the day on March 31. The extension is expected to be valid until mid-April, and applicants will have to attest to the fact that they tried to enroll by March 31 but were unable to finish because of technical problems or other extenuating circumstances.
74,370 people had finalized their private plan selections in the New Jersey exchange by February 1 – an increase of nearly twenty thousand people in one month, and coming on the heels of January’s enrollment growth of more than twenty thousand people. An additional 123,092 people had been found to be eligible for New Jersey’s expanded Medicaid through the exchange by the beginning of March.
In late February, 11 New Jersey lawmakers – all Democrats – partnered with Get Covered America to volunteer their time in helping NJ residents get enrolled in the exchange. The lawmakers’ staff members will also be helping with the enrollment effort, which is Get Covered America’s largest partnership with state lawmakers in the country.
The New Jersey Assembly passed two bills authorizing a state-run exchange in 2012, but both were vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie. Those vetoes left the federal government to operate the health insurance marketplace in New Jersey. Governor Christie has taken a very hands-off approach to the ACA, and the state has done little to promote the HHS-run exchange, leaving most of the heavy lifting to brokers, navigators and HHS. In mid-January, U.S. Rep Bill Pascrell (D, NJ) introduced a bill that would allow HHS to recoup ACA outreach funding that remains unused by Republican governors like Christie who have refused to use the money in their states to promote the ACA and educate residents about its benefits.
New Jersey officials were involved in lengthy discussions with HHS over the use of $7.67 million in federal funds that had been granted to NJ in 2012 to use for promoting the state’s health insurance exchange. The money was intended for outreach, advertising and general promotion of the ACA and the exchange, although NJ officials wanted to use it to staff a call center for the state’s expanded Medicaid program. But HHS had made it clear last year that such a use was not permitted. Ultimately, the state and HHS were not able to come to a compromise on the issue, and New Jersey forfeited the money on February 20.
Three health insurers are offering 29 options for individuals and families in New Jersey: Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, AmeriHealth New Jersey and Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey. Health Republic is a new consumer oriented and operated plan, or co-op, created under a provision of the ACA. Aetna initially intended to participate, but dropped out in September.
This relatively low level of competition is one of the reasons given for the higher-than-average premiums in New Jersey. According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the average cost for a bronze plan —the lowest-cost option — in New Jersey is $332, compared to a national average of $249 a month.
According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), about 901,000 New Jersey residents are uninsured and eligible to use the health insurance marketplace to purchase insurance. HHS also estimates that about 790,000 people in New Jersey will be eligible for subsidies to purchase insurance or will qualify for coverage through the state’s expansion of Medicaid, which was authorized by the New Jersey Assembly and signed into law by Christie.
State Exchange Profile: New Jersey
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of New Jersey’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.
New Jersey Health Insurance Exchange
An overview of health exchange issues from the consumer advocacy group New Jersey Citizen Action.
Principles for Establishing a Pro-Consumer NJ Health Insurance Exchange (PDF)
From NJ For Health Care