Former state Health Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh this week joined the board of the Randolph-based Common Sense Institute of New Jersey, a free-market public policy think tank. Alaigh resigned in March, citing personal reasons, as commissioner.
“We are thrilled that Dr. Alaigh will be providing her health care policy and management insights on behalf of CSI-NJ,” said the institute’s president, Jerry Cantrell. “As New Jersey wrestles with how to improve the quality of life for state residents while responsibly managing limited resources, Dr. Alaigh’s leadership role within our organization will benefit the institute greatly.”
Before joining the Chris Christie administration, Alaigh held executive positions at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and GlaxoSmithKline.
In an interview Friday, Alaigh said the institute “is a very important think tank, and we need something unique to New Jersey because our issues are unique.”
Alaigh said as New Jersey implements the 2010 federal Accountable Care Act, “we have a lot of opportunities for innovation.” Health care providers are exploring accountable care organizations, designed to both improve health outcomes and lower costs, “and physicians are coming together and working with health systems to identify how to ensure that care coordination is done in the most cost-effective way.”
The federal health care reform law authorizes health exchanges, where employers and individuals will shop for health coverage once the law requires most Americans to get coverage in 2014. “The more informed we are, and engaged with the employer community, the better (the exchanges) will be,” Alaigh said. “The (Christie) administration is engaging a lot of stakeholders to look at what the health insurance exchanges should look like.”
She also said there are opportunities to tailor the exchanges to the needs of New Jersey.
“The more we get the business community engaged, the more we will be ahead of the curve in identifying what will work for us,” she said.
Experts are predicting employers nationwide will stop offering health coverage, leaving their employees to buy coverage on the exchange. “There is always the danger of employers bailing out of employer-sponsored insurance,” and retaining employer coverage will require “an active dialogue” with employers, she said. “We are at risk of losing, as an aftereffect (of the reform), something that really works for us, which is employer-sponsored health plans.”
Cantrell said the institute, founded more than a year ago, is looking at the impact of health care reform on New Jersey citizens and employers, and he said Alaigh will provide considerable insight and expertise. “We are nonpartisan, and our mission is to put facts and data out there, so the elected officials will make decisions based on that (information), and not on ideology,” he said.