NJ Lawmakers Discuss Health Care Options

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

Sen. Nia Gill asked insurance commissioner Ken Kobylowski to testify this afternoon about his decision to allow health insurers to decide whether or not they will renew the plans they were in the process of canceling.

On Nov. 14, President Obama announced he would let individual states decide whether to allow so-called sub-standard policies to continue for another year.

Kobylowski and the Christie administration recently said they would, but we learned today it’s all still uncertain.

Gill asked which insurers have decided to renew their plans. Kobylowski replied, “As of now, no one to my knowledge.” When asked if he knew when the decisions will be made by the insurance companies, he said, “I do not.”

There are 800,000 New Jerseyans in the state’s individual and small-group markets who could lose their coverage. The head of the industry trade association said the companies are working on it.

“Today I don’t think any insurance company has announced in New Jersey what they are going to do, but they are all working hard right now with attorneys, actuaries and all sorts of folks trying to make that determination and obviously they’ll need to move as quickly as possible,” said New Jersey Association of Health Plans President Ward Sanders.

Those who lose coverage can still get new health insurance plans from the Obamacare exchange in the state.

“Those folks are very likely to find better coverage, more comprehensive coverage, at lower prices,” Rutgers University Center for State Health Policy Joel Cantor said.

The lone Republican at the hearing wanted to talk about Obamacare itself.

Sen. Gerald Cardinale asked, “Is it a lousy plan?” to which he got the reply, “That is entirely subjective, senator.”

The commissioner didn’t seem to mind that Sen. Gill cut Cardinale off, saying his question was beyond the scope of today’s hearing. For her part, Gill kept pressing Kobylowski on why the state isn’t doing more to educate the public, especially in light of 800,000 possible cancellations.

“That’s why we need to have a proactive policy of educating the consumer. This is what may come down the line. These are the things you have to look for,” Gill said.

According to the industry spokesman, 27 state insurance commissioners have gone along with President Obama’s request that they allow insurers to renew policies set for cancellation. Twenty-one states have decided it’s too late or too cumbersome in an already confused situation.