POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Christie Blasts Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey

Gov. Chris Christie has launched an unflinching attack on Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. It started with his budget address last month and continued with his Ask the Governor radio show. NJTV News Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron has the story.

Christie really gave it to Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey last night.

The governor wants to tap Horizon’s surplus for $300 million to bolster state spending on opioid addiction as part of the 2018 budget.

Christie told Eric Scott of NJ 101.5 last night, legislation on that is coming.

He said, “I find it hard to believe that Democratic legislators are going to say no to the idea that a company like Horizon, which is a nonprofit set up for the benefit of the people of New Jersey, won’t take their excess profits, just a piece of their excess profits, and use them to help poor people who are drug addicted. I can’t believe that Democrats won’t support that. Especially when Horizon is paying millions of dollars to their executives and lobbyists. I mean if they say they don’t have the money, then I’d like them tonight to reveal what they pay their lobbyists. What do they pay the CEO?”

When asked if Gibbons is their lobbyist, the governor said, “I don’t know. That’s probably one of them. That’s fine by me, I don’t care. I mean I don’t care who their lobbyists are. They also have a whole team of internal lobbyist, right? The CEO, the COO and the CFO — what are they making at a nonprofit? What do they make at a nonprofit that they can afford to do that? But they can’t afford to take excess profit — that’s what this is, it’s excess profit — and put some of it toward their mission. Because let’s remember, Obamacare took away their mission. Their mission was to be the insurer of last resort in New Jersey. That’s no longer necessary because we have Obamacare.”

It continued like this for five minutes and thus qualifies as a Christie rant.

And like his rants, it picked up intensity.

The governor said Horizon has made “tons of money off of Medicaid” thanks to Obamacare, and that’s taxpayer money, public money.

“What I want to call on them tonight to do is to release the salaries. The current salaries. With all of the other stuff — deferred compensation, pension payments, bonuses, all the other stuff. How much are they paying their CEO? How much are they paying their COO? How much are they paying their CFO? How much are they paying their lobbyists? Both in house and outside. To fight helping the drug-addicted poor with excess profits. Look I’m going to tell you I’m not very sympathetic to this and I’m a Republican who supports business in this state who has been the most business friendly governor in two decades, but you know what? They’re a nonprofit that’s supposed to be working for the benefit of the people in this state. They’re making a fortune off of Medicaid and now they’re big-time, well-connected lobbyists being paid a fortune want to stop the drug addicted poor from being helped. Shame on them. Shame on them,” Christie said.

Horizon Spokesman Kevin McArdle sent us a statement that reads in part: “Horizon is always looking to partner, but no amount of bullying or posturing will change the fact that the governor’s proposal is a massive tax hike on policyholders.”

McArdle told NJTV News that Horizon’s surplus is $2.4 billion, but its profit last year was just $84 million, and all of the executive salaries are on file at the Department of Banking and Insurance in Trenton.

So Christie can presumably get those with a phone call. “And if the governor needs $300 million,” McArdle added, “why did he cut the sales tax last year?”