HEALTH

New Jersey Takes First Steps to Create Health Exchanges

The Senate and Assembly both passed the New Jersey Health Benefits Exchange Act, but Republicans still oppose the measure. As part of the Affordable Care Act, the bill creates a competitive marketplace where consumers and small businesses can purchase affordable and quality healthcare coverage.

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“It’s long overdue, and it will provide access to affordable health care,” said Senator Nia Gill, prime sponsor of the bill. “We have 1.3 million uninsured in New Jersey and this health exchange will cover at least 400,000 if not more. I think it benefits individuals and small business owners because one, you will be able to get insurance, you will be able to get subsidies in respect to the federal government. The wider the pool of people who are insured, the rates come down.”

But Republicans say there are still too many unknowns about the federal guidelines and costs for the exchange program. “I think we’re really being premature because right now, there’s a lot of “what ifs” out there right now coming from federal government,” said Republican assemblyman David Rible. “There’s not complete guidelines yet that are being distributed, there’s some talks about guidelines being delayed another year pending the election if it goes to Mitt Romney. He’s already pledged to repeal Obamacare.”

Gov. Christie says he’s working with his policy advisors, but won’t sign anything until after the election.

Dari Kotsker reports from the State house.