Lawmakers sent a host of bills to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk aimed at preserving several provisions of the Affordable Care Act in the state, to shield against the uncertainty of federal health care.
The Senate and Assembly voted along party lines to approve the package of eight measures, all of which replicate widely popular features of the ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare.
“If the courts at the federal level were to overturn or repeal certain parts of the Affordable Care Act, then these statutes would be put in place,” Senate Budget Chair Paul Sarlo, D-36th District, said at a Jan. 7 committee hearing when introducing the bills.
The bills come as the Murphy administration tries to ramp up a state-based, Obamacare-style marketplace. Many were introduced or backed by the governor’s office, and are expected to see his signature.
In 2018, Murphy approved an individual health care mandate, and for the fines collected from its violations to finance a “high-risk pool” for the state’s more expensive patients.
Then in March, the governor announced the formation of the health plan marketplace, which will begin offering plans this fall for enrollment in 2021.
“We cannot leave the health and safety of our citizens up to the whims of the White House,” Senate Health Committee Chair Joe Vitale, D-19th District, said in a Jan. 7 statement. “This legislation is a commitment to our residents and an assurance that our state will do everything we can to make sure New Jerseyans are healthy, safe and able to afford health care.”
What’s in the package
One measure, Senate Bill 3809, gives the state broad authority to review health insurance hikes over a certain threshold.
Assembly Bill 5508 would require these health plans to provide contraceptive coverage, and removes the religious exemption for “religious employers,” which include churches, and schools those churches operate.
Senate Bill 3802 would require health coverage for children up to the age of 26, while Senate Bill 3812 would require health insurance companies to invest at least 85 percent of money collected from customers into health care benefits, and not profits.
Senate Bill 3808 would ban so-called “basic and essential health plans,” which are typically lower-cost and provide skimpier health coverage.
Assembly Bill 5507 would require health insurers to cover certain preventive services at no cost to the patient, including mammograms and vaccinations.
Assembly Bill 5248 would require that all health plans cover the “10 essential health benefits” laid out in the ACA, such as ambulance and emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse disorders, and preventative screening.