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Christie vetoes bill to create state-run health insurance exchange

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    Gov. Chris Christie this afternoon vetoed legislation to establish a state-run health insurance exchange in New Jersey, citing a lack of information from the federal government on all options provided to states in the Affordable Care Act.

    "We will comply with the Affordable Care Act, but only in the most efficient and cost-effective way for New Jersey taxpayers," Christie said in a statement. "Until the federal government gives us all the necessary (cost) information, any other action than this would be fiscally irresponsible."

    A bill sponsored by Sens. Nia H. Gill (D-Montclair) and Joseph F. Vitale (D-Woodbridge) to create a state-run exchange passed the Legislature in October, but in his veto message today, Christie said, "while I appreciate the Legislature's attempt to craft a bill to implement this portion of the Affordable Care Act, I cannot agree that this codification of a state-based exchange is the most responsible selection for New Jersey."

    It is the second time Christie has vetoed legislation to create a health exchange, but this time, his veto pen strikes a week before the federal deadline of Dec. 14 for states to decide whether to establish a state-run exchange for health insurance policies or allow Washington to run it for them. When Christie vetoed an earlier version of the bill in May, he said he was waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the Affordable Care Act, which it upheld in June.

    Amy Mansue, president and CEO of Children's Specialized Hospital, said the second attempt at the measure failed because the legislators "sent (Christie) the same bill."

    "(Christie) is philosophically opposed to it, he's said that. He doesn't think this is a good idea, and quite frankly, he has no guarantee that this thing is going to work," Mansue said. "So why would he want his own state entity to be worried about something and trying to make it work? Let the feds worry about it."

    Christie said he will keep an open mind about possibly launching a state-run exchange following the implementation of a federally facilitated exchange model, as the federal government still lacks a structured blueprint for any exchange model's operation, and states will be allowed to amend their selections if they wish to in the future. If he wants, Christie can create such an exchange through executive order.

    In a statement, Jeff Brown, policy and communications coordinator for New Jersey Citizen Action, said a state-run exchange "would have provided a consumer- and patient-friendly framework for our state's health insurance exchange, expanded access to affordable private insurance to 400,000 New Jersey residents and allowed New Jersey to control its own destiny in implementing the Affordable Care Act."

    "This veto was a step backward," Brown said. "We are ceding our ability to continue to be a leader by not taking the reins on building a state-based health insurance exchange."

    Contributing: Melinda Caliendo

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