NJTV News

How do New Jerseyans feel about their health care coverage?

Cost is the single largest factor for New Jerseyans like Nancy Sobin, who runs a small business called Professional Paperwork Services, when purchasing health insurance.

“I ended up just buying the cheapest insurance I could get, just for an emergency, and that insurance is almost $800 a month, which is just ridiculous,” said Sobin.

Her sentiments reflect that of most other entrepreneurs in the state — options for buying your own health coverage are unaffordable.

“The insurance that I bought is for $800 a month. Also I have a $3,000 deductible before I get any services. It’s just outrageous they think that this is an insurance product,” Sobin said.

A new poll from the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute and Rutgers-Eagleton finds that the Affordable Care Act was effective in increasing overall enrollment. But residents who individually purchased insurance from a carrier or through the health care marketplace are less satisfied than any others.

“We see about over half of New Jerseyans have coverage from an employer or spouse-employer, about 1 in 5 have coverage from Medicare, but we see 10 percent of New Jersey either insure themselves, either from the marketplace, or they get it from an insurance company. That’s the group especially where cost is the biggest concern,” said Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.

“The people who are purchasing insurance on their own and especially people who are above 400 percent of the federal poverty line are really affected by these increasing premiums. They’re not receiving subsidies, so there’s no insulation for them from the increasing costs of health care,” said Amanda Melillo, chief of staff at the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute.

Melillo says more than half of those with coverage through an employer were highly satisfied with their options. But when all participants were asked whether the health care system was on the right track, most felt otherwise. Fifty-two percent responded negatively, saying NJ is heading in the wrong direction.

“We need to act as a state in the short term to really ensure that people continue to be enrolled to spread the risk, so that the older or unhealthy people are not left with higher premiums. So, looking at things like a state-based individual mandate or things increasing enrollment encouraging enrollments,” said Melillo.

But as Koning points out, three times as many people lacked coverage before the ACA took hold in 2014. Now 92 percent of New Jersey residents are covered, leaving roughly 560,000 out of our 7 million adults without coverage. And, the poll had another bright spot.

“About 6 in 10 say they actually had a choice of different plans to begin with, and among those who had a choice, 9 in 10 say that they actually had enough information,” said Koning.

Health care experts say they are urging long term reforms now that the individual mandate has been repealed, and the fate of this health care law is in the hands of the Trump administration.