The roughly 100,000 New Jerseyans with substandard “basic and essential” health plans that don't conform to new rules under the Affordable Care Act might be able to keep that plan if they renew prior to Dec. 31, according to a new report by New Jersey Policy Perspective.
But in a press conference Tuesday, NJPP and the consumer group NJ for Health Care Coalition said most people are better off shopping for new, comprehensive coverage on the ACA Marketplace, where many will qualify for a federal subsidy to defray the cost of coverage.
According to NJPP, only one percent of New Jerseyans – 110,000 – have substandard B&E plans.
"The problem of individuals losing their substandard health plans because they do not meet ACA requirements has been exaggerated and can be managed by the state, insurers, and federal government as long as they work together to address the real needs of these consumers," said Ray Castro, Senior Policy Analyst at NJPP and author of the report.
NJPP is advocating that New Jersey provide additional subsidies to supplement the federal subsidies that are available to individuals and families up to four times the federal poverty level, or about $46,000 for a single individual.
According to NJPP, the ACA's subsidies "may not always be sufficient in New Jersey, which has one of the highest costs of living in the nation."
NJPP is proposing that New Jersey tap some of the money it will begin saving in 2014 as a result of the Medicaid expansion to provide additional assistance to consumers.
The Coalition called on Gov. Chris Christie to use the $7.6 million remaining from a federal grant "to educate New Jerseyans on the range of new coverage options available to them and to help clear up the misconceptions that unnecessarily alarm consumers."
"Most people don't want to keep substandard plans, but people are concerned about the cost," Castro said. He said rather than renewing a substandard B&E plan — which doesn't cap on the amount of money a consumer might wind up paying for medical care —"You might be better off in the marketplace with subsidies."
Maura Collinsgru, health policy advocate for NJ Citizen Action, also argued against renewing plans.
"As a consumer group, we are not sure extending these (substandard) plans is good thing," she said. "We are trying to move forward and change the system and make sure everyone has standard coverage."
Collinsgru said if consumers were well informed, "they would probably make the choice to go on the Marketplace and get a subsidy for comprehensive coverage."