Assemblyman Introduces Legislation Creating “Public Option” Healthcare Plan
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora has officially introduced the “New Jersey Public Option Health Care Act,” dubbed “JERSEYCare,” which would build upon the success of Medicare and Medicaid to create a low-cost, state-run, publicly-funded health plan.
“Healthcare should be a right for every New Jersey resident,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “I think the climate is finally right to make significant changes to our system that will enshrine that principle in our laws.”
Gusciora noted that the legislation (A-4211) would not replace the traditional health insurance structure, opting rather to work within the existing system to create an affordable alternative.
“It would be the ultimate Medicare expansion. Every New Jersey resident would be able to apply to – with help, if necessary – and qualify for affordable, comprehensive healthcare coverage,” Gusciora added. “The government has the benefit of representing a large population of people, and that gives them a lot of clout in cost and reimbursement negotiations. Even better, we’re people-motivated, not profit-motivated. A government health plan doesn’t pay six-figure salaries to its executives. Instead, it cuts costs for citizens.
“That’s really the need and the goal, here – to cut costs. We can’t possibly afford to keep paying the astronomical amount we are for healthcare, and we can’t sink indefinite sums into charity care. With this plan, our insured and uninsured alike will have a reliable, affordable option for healthcare, where they can use their existing doctors and hospitals without having to deal with obtrusive and damaging network arrangements.”
Under the bill, the Commissioner of Health, in consultation with the Commissioner of Banking and Insurance, would be required to establish and implement the program, which will provide a comprehensive health insurance coverage option to every state resident who enrolls in the program. The health insurance coverage offered by the program shall compete in the market with insurance offered by private health insurers.
Under the bill, every resident of the state shall be eligible and entitled to enroll as a member under the program. The Commissioner of Health would establish premiums in a manner to make the program viable, but at the lowest possible cost to members.
The commissioner would also establish and maintain procedures and standards for health care providers to be qualified to participate in the program. Any health care provider who is qualified to participate under Medicaid, NJ FamilyCare or Medicare shall be deemed to be qualified to participate in the program.
“Ultimately, I think a true single-payer system will be the only way to keep costs low in generations to come. But this is a good way to get us started on that path. It’ll provide our departments with a valuable opportunity to obtain administrative expertise in operating a healthcare program, and will give us a chance to prove that New Jersey can be a national leader in policy innovation. Most importantly, it gets our residents covered in the meantime,” added Gusciora.
The Assemblyman is hopeful that his legislation will be received well, especially in light of the fact that insurers have been fleeing the state.
“I think this is something that hospitals, physicians and other healthcare professionals can all get on board with. Arrangements like this, which make the government responsible for coverage of costs, virtually guarantee payment to healthcare systems,” concluded Gusciora.
The legislation was officially introduced on Thursday. A copy of the bill can be viewed here.