By David Cruz
Ads are starting to pop up on TV, radio and online, as the Obama administration prepares for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act — ACA — or what even the administration is calling Obamacare. But a coalition of health care advocates — calling itself NJ for Health Care — says New Jersey’s uninsured are being kept in the dark about the federal program. They say Gov. Chris Christie is refusing to release funds — $7.6 million to be exact — that are supposed to help get the word out.
“Unfortunately, it has gone unspent because Christie’s administration has chosen not to spend it,” said Jen Coleman, an advocate with NJPIRG, “and so that’s why we’re here today on behalf of New Jersey’s consumers to ask Gov. Christie to release those funds so that we can let people know that there are new affordable options on the horizon.”
The coalition says about 900,000 New Jersey residents are uninsured. They say the new health care exchanges, scheduled to go live Oct. 1, will provide affordable health care options and subsidies, but most people still don’t know about it. But Christie as recently as yesterday, says he has no plans to participate in the exchanges.
“We’re not going to do the state-based exchanges because the federal government won’t tell us what the rules are, won’t give us control, won’t tell us what the cost is going to be,” he said at a press conference Little Ferry. “Well, as governor, if you’re gonna ask me to run a program that I have no control over and I have to pay for, I think it’s a pretty bad deal for my taxpayers.”
“Gov. Christie must act to take advantage of this opportunity,” countered Maura Collinsgru, the Health Policy Advocate for NJ Citizens Action. “It is a good deal. A deal that is good for all New Jerseyans. Governor, only you hold the power to sign the check.”
Demonstrators tried to deliver a mock check to the Newark office of the Department of Banking and Insurance, which would administer the funds. No one from the Department came down to talk to the demonstrators and they didn’t return our calls for comment either. Demonstrators said they’d deliver the check to the governor, in person.
“With two months left, there’s very little action being taken in New Jersey,” added Ray Ocasio, executive director of La Casa De Don Pedro in Newark. “California has spent nearly $600 million to promote the health care act. New Jersey has spent a pitiful amount of money.”
The governor has expressed little interest in participating in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, but demonstrators here say regardless of what his personal opinions are, he has a responsibility to help create educated consumers.