HEALTH

NJ health insurance rates to decrease in 2019

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Gov. Phil Murphy relished making a rare announcement that New Jersey health care insurance rates on the individual market will drop 9.3 percent on average next year as a result of the state’s decision to defend Obamacare against attacks by the Trump administration.

“With President Trump and his Republican enablers — both in Congress and in state houses around the country — continuing their assault on the Affordable Care Act, it has inevitably fallen to us to act in the interests of our residents and consumers in the name of common sense,” Murphy said.

Measures enacted by lawmakers and signed by the governor this year include a state individual mandate; a ban on limited-coverage ‘junk plans’; and a five-year reinsurance program signed Friday and submitted to the federal government that will reimburse insurers up to 60 percent of catastrophic medical bills. New Jersey’s the only state with all three measures.

“It’s significant because if everyone isn’t in the pool swimming in the same direction at the same time, it just makes it unaffordable for everyone else,” said Sen. Joe Vitale, an architect of the insurance measures.

The net result: a New Jersey silver plan that currently costs $350 a month, for example, will drop to roughly $314 on the individual health market next year — instead of rising to $394. That’s $422 in annual savings, according to Gov. Murphy. What’s that make New Jersey?

“Frankly, we’re number one in terms of combating the sabotage of the Affordable Care Act. There was a national organization that just designated New Jersey in that category, and I think we should all be proud about that. I mean, this is an amazing accomplishment,” said Ray Castro, director of health policy at New Jersey Policy Perspective.

Here’s some context: this year’s average rate increases in New Jersey topped 23 percent and preliminary requests for next year had hit 12.6 percent. Now, Jersey’s looking at a 9.3 percent decrease. Compare that to neighboring New York, which requested a 24 percent rate increase next year; Connecticut asked for a 12.3 percent increase; and Maryland, who requested a 30.2 percent increase.

“We are proving that it is imperative that states step up and defend access to care,” Commissioner of the Department of Banking and Insurance, Marlene Caride, said.

“We know that the best way to do this and to contain costs is to lower the number of uninsured residents, provide stability in the marketplace, and ensure every eligible person has a policy that suits their needs and budget,” Murphy said.

The bottom line for enrollment? Because rates will go down, health officials hope to see enrollment go up by 8,000 customers next year.