New Jersey Small Business Owners Urge State to Pass Health Insurance Exchange Law

1277560_99475835.jpgA New Jersey organization representing more than one thousand small business owners rallied outside the Statehouse in Trenton recently to advocate for a state health insurance exchange (HIX). The Legislature passed a bill that would have created a New Jersey HIX in early 2012. Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill in May, citing the pending decision from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as “Obamacare.” Governor Christie stated that, until the Supreme Court ruled on the ACA, the New Jersey law’s constitutionality was similarly up in the air. Since the Supreme Court upheld most of the ACA in June, many small business leaders want him to approve a HIX for the state.

The ACA requires states to create HIXs in order to assist people in obtaining health insurance coverage for the themselves or their families. States have until November 16, 2012 to enact their own state-run HIXs. After that date, the federal government will operate the HIX for the state. So far, eleven state legislatures have created HIXs, and three governors have created them by executive order.

Consumers and small businesses can use HIXs to compare and contrast private health insurance plans, and to learn about tax credits and other benefits. The federal government has made grants available to the states to facilitate the establishment of HIXs. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), New Jersey has received two grants: a $1 million “State Planning Grant” in 2010 and a $7.6 million “Level One Grant” in 2011. State HIXs are expected to go online, sometimes literally, in 2014, when many of the provisions of the ACA take effect.

In addition to his stated concern about the then-pending Supreme Court decision, Governor Christie also identified several provisions of New Jersey’s HIX law he found problematic. His veto message claimed that the bill would restrict the number of health insurance plans available through the HIX, which would limit consumers’ and small businesses’ options and lead to higher costs. He also cited concerns about how the bill restricted membership in the HIX board and mandated that sitting board members receive compensation of $50,000 per year. As written, the bill would have reportedly prohibited employees of healthcare firms or health insurance companies from serving on the HIX board, and it would have barred former members from accepting employment in the healthcare industry for a two-year period.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued its 5-3 decision upholding the ACA, with Justice Kagan abstaining, on June 28, 2012. This addressed Governor Christie’s most prominent concern with the New Jersey HIX law, but nothing has happened on the issue in the months since the Supreme Court decision. This prompted over two hundred small business owners, members of the Main Street Alliance, to submit letters to the governor demanding that he sign a HIX law if the Legislature passes one before the federal government’s November deadline. Members of the small business group prefer a state-run HIX to a federal one, as they say it would give them greater bargaining power.

The New York business attorneys at Samuel C. Berger, PC offer fixed-fee packages of legal services to businesses and entrepreneurs who want to do business in New York and northern New Jersey. To speak to a member of our skilled legal team, contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117.

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Social Media and the NLRB: How New York and New Jersey Businesses Can Avoid Accidentally Breaking Federal Labor Laws, New York & New Jersey Business Lawyer Blog, June 14, 2012
Pregnancy and Childcare Discrimination: What New York and New Jersey Businesses Should Know, New York & New Jersey Business Lawyer Blog, April 27, 2012
Pending New Jersey Legislation Addresses Lack of Health Insurance, New York & New Jersey Business Lawyer Blog, March 23, 2012
Photo credit: ‘Fruits’ by mihow on stock.xchng.