Conaway Measures to Smooth Establishment of Health Insurance Exchange Gets Assembly Panel Approval

Two-Bill Package Will Help Oversee Key Provision of Federal Affordable Care Act

An Assembly panel on Thursday approved a two-bill package sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr. M.D. to help smooth the establishment of a health insurance exchange for consumers and businesses under the landmark federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The first bill (A-3878) would require the Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) to establish and lead a coordinated statewide public awareness campaign about the health insurance exchange for the general public.

Conaway noted that the insurance exchange is designed to promote choice and value by allowing an individual or small business to compare the costs and benefits of various health plans and options, while being part of a large insurance pool, which helps lower rates.

“There’s no question that the establishment and implementation of a health insurance exchange is going to be a complex process,” said Conaway (D-Burlington), Chair of the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. “But hopefully this awareness campaign will help make dense subject matter for more accessible and understandable to the general public.”

The public awareness campaign would require DOBI to: develop a strategy for publicizing the services, eligibility requirements, and enrollment procedures of the insurance exchange; post easily accessible information on its website about the exchange and links to other relevant sources of information and assistance; prepare informational materials and disseminate these materials at public venues throughout the state, as well as in collaboration with other state, county, and municipal government entities.

The second measure (ACR-184) would establish the “Joint Legislative Task Force on Health Insurance Exchange Implementation” to oversee and develop recommendations for the implementation of a health insurance exchange in New Jersey in accordance with the federal act.

“Given the evolving nature of the health insurance market and the complexities of the federal law and existing state regulations, this taskforce is necessary to oversee and develop recommendations, to properly implement the health insurance exchange in New Jersey,” added Conaway. “Having waited this long for the Governor to decide on a course of action for our health exchange, it’s crucial that we get a hold on things now to make sure the exchange is functioning and effective.”

Pursuant to the resolution’s provisions, the 12-member task force would be charged with:

(1) Analyzing and overseeing the operation of a federal health exchange in New Jersey;

(2) Developing recommendations on whether the state should play a more active role in the operation of the health insurance exchange to ensure that the state benefits to the maximum extent practicable; and

(3) Making recommendations that will best ensure a coordinated effort among the relevant state agencies, health care providers, third party payers, and the federal government to implement the health insurance exchange in New Jersey.

Among the powers granted to the taskforce is the ability to compel the attendance of witnesses.

The task force would be required to provide the Senate President and the Assembly Speaker with quarterly updates of its activities, findings, conclusions, and recommendations for legislation or administrative action.

In addition, the task force is required to issue annual reports of its activities, findings, conclusions, and recommendations for legislation or administrative action, including any recommendations to expand the role of the state in implementing the health insurance exchange in New Jersey.

The bills were approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, which Conaway chairs. They now await consideration by the full Assembly.