NJ unveils website, creates partnerships for health care open enrollment

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

New Jersey has launched an Affordable Care Act public awareness campaign with a new website to help residents sign up for health care. The unveiling came at the War Memorial where nonprofits from across the state came to Trenton for ACA training.

“We’re going to prove that working together we will protect New Jersey,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.

New Jersey Citizen Action says despite all the criticism of the ACA and federal attempts to undermine it, the same services that were offered at the outset are still available.

“There’s been a lot of rhetoric, but the same services, the same plans, the same financial assistance, the same assistance that’s been available to consumers for the last five years is still there. And as a matter of fact, because of steps New Jersey has taken, our health plans are actually seeing a decrease in cost this year where other states are seeing an increase,” said Maura Collinsgru, health care program director at New Jersey Citizen Action.

The Murphy administration said enrollment dipped by 10 percent last year and it plans to reverse that this year by offering financial help and some plans that cost nothing or less than $100 a month.

The state also announced hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to nonprofits to help consumers navigate enrollment. The Center for Family Services says its navigators have been invaluable in seven southern New Jersey counties since 2013.

“I can say with absolute certainty that not only would people not have insurance and not understand how it works, but families in New Jersey would suffer,” said Robin Stockton, senior program director for the Center for Family Services.

“It is not a privilege. It is a right,” said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman.

Advocates say the approach of this administration is way different than the previous administration and one they certainly welcome.

“Today we are thrilled, and I say that with every bit of passion that I can muster, to finally stand here in 2018 in partnership with the state of New Jersey,” said Collinsgru.

“For the first time since the implementation of the ACA, New Jersey is all in,” said New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride.

“What a difference a governor can make,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.

Another difference is that when consumers call for help, folks in New Jersey will answer their questions instead of someone from out of state. Nonprofits are not the only ones setting up for enrollment. The Elizabeth Public Library is too.

“I think that we’re unique in our communities in a sense that we’re not selling things. We’re not selling things. We’re a nonprofit, noncommercial space so that gives us a unique space to stand in that we could sort of become this neutral ground,” said Andrew Luck, assistant director at the Elizabeth Public Library.

In January, Murphy signed Executive Order 4 directing some state agencies to provide ACA enrollment information to the public. The governor says Tuesday marks New Jersey taking the lead and showing states and Washington how to help consumers sign up for health coverage.

“I know President Trump is working on that caravan morning noon and night so I hope if he gets a minute to listen to us today — Take it from New Jersey, when you uphold the principles of the Affordable Care Act, you end up with more affordable health care,” Murphy said.

Open enrollment begins Thursday and runs for 6 weeks.