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Grapevine: Expectations below Horizon?

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Two sources in the health care industry have indicated to Grapevine that Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey did not do as well with its Medicaid revenue in 2011 as the company would have liked.

Horizon, the largest Medicaid administrator in the state, added 66,000 new Medicaid members in 2011, according to its annual report. Also in 2011, the insurer lost 56,000 large group members in 2011, according to the report. The sources noted the membership mix might not be as favorable as it once was, because government health care programs like Medicaid are not as attractive to an insurer as large group purchasers.

Horizon spokesman Thomas Vincz noted the insurer increased its net income from 2010 to 2011.

Roche exit was no snap decision
Roche announced in June it would shutter its 83-year-old research campus in Nutley, but the decision may have been in the works for more than a year.

A source said the Swiss drugmaker hired a top New Jersey real estate brokerage in spring 2011 to study reuses of the 119-acre campus, which also stretches into Clifton and has roughly 2 million square feet of space. After about four months, consultants came back with a report that examined several redevelopment prospects — including industrial, office and retail uses — for portions of the property.

Experts have said that at least part of the site would be prime location for retail: the campus sits on the Route 3 corridor, which is home to several thriving shopping centers in North Jersey.

Only Roche executives can say when the final decision was made to close the campus, but the company appeared committed to growing the property at the start of this year.

In February, the firm announced Tom Lyon had taken over as its site head, allowing it to "ensure Nutley is a top-notch site that can deliver world-class science and work with local leaders to enhance further Roche's reputation within the community."

The 1,000 workers at the site will be gone by the end of next year, according to Roche's announcements. At least 200 of those employees will move to a new research center in Manhattan, a project New Jersey officials had hoped to land to ease the sting of the company's exit.

Cory coy on future
It's the hottest political parlor game in New Jersey right now: Will Cory Booker run for governor? Democrats say that if Booker wants to run, he will clear the field of any primary opponents, or likely get the line in every county if he has a challenger in the primary.

But while Booker is giving signals he wants to run for something bigger than Newark mayor, political observers are split on which race. Some theorize Booker wants to dethrone Chris Christie, while others say Booker would rather be a U.S. senator.

Booker is not expected to decide soon, sources say, but the flirtations may have a negative consequence if he bows out from a gubernatorial bid. Democrats who want him to run for governor won't be happy if he doesn't after the buildup, according to one Democrat. "Have we unleashed something that people will be … flat-out angry" if he doesn't run, the source summed up as one sentiment.

On the Republican side, meanwhile, there are fewer questions about whether Christie will run again. Rumors have been floated — likely by Democrats — that Christie won't seek re-election so he could take a pundit's job with a cable TV show. A GOP source has called the rumor "ridiculous," and even a Democrat had described the whispers as probably just wishful thinking by Dems.

Another Democrat thinks one sign that Christie will run for re-election can be seen in Monroe, where the governor has criticized Mayor Richard Pucci for exceeding the property tax cap by $500,000. Pucci also got heat for a state comptroller report citing "questionable bonuses" at the Middlesex County Improvement Authority where he is executive director.

"The Pucci attack is pure 2013 re-election junk," the Dem said.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak replied: "Hardly. These are serious current issues. Maybe the Democrat saying that anonymously could come out from the shadows and dismiss those issues publicly on behalf of Mayor Pucci."

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Sharon Waters at sharonw@njbiz.com.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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