October 1st, 2013 has arrived. The date for those not following the three plus year discussion on health care reform and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the first day that those who are uninsured can go to healthcare.gov and explore the marketplace and choose a health care plan to enroll in.
Leading up to this day, there have been 45 votes in the U.S. House to repeal ACA including three on the eve of the government shutdown. Each state was given the option to operate their own exchange's implementation and Democrats in the State Legislature are stepping up to assist with the early stages.
Recently, Democratic lawmakers announced their goals and those who would make a task force that will monitor the federally-run health exchange through the online portal individuals will use. Governor Chris Christie has struggled over dealing with the aspect of ACA being the law of the land and up until the 2012 presidential election he would not speak too much on the matter. After President Barack Obama was reelected, he begrudgingly accepted the fact that within a year the marketplace for health care would open and chose to have the federal government operate the process for the state.
With the October 1st start date in mind, Democrats created what is known as the Joint Legislative Task Force on Health Insurance Exchange Implementation by a resolution a few months ago once Christie made his final decision. The task force will be evaluating the success of the exchange (the marketplace) in helping people compare and contrast health insurance policies as they make their purchases. Also, they will evaluate how the process for applying for tax credits and or subsidies to help pay for the different packages is going.
Starting in 2015, those not currently uninsured will need to buy a policy via the marketplace or face a fine when they file for their taxes. That fine will increase each year if individuals continue to avoid purchasing a package that best suits them. Of the roughly 31 million uninsured Americans, a little more than 1 million live in New Jersey. Between 800,000 to 900,000 is estimated to be able to obtain health care through a private health carrier or Medicaid.
As state Senator Nia Gill (D-34) would outline,
The marketplace is a key component of health reform and the mechanism by which hundreds of thousands of people will shop for health coverage in New Jersey. Our goal as a state must be to ensure that the 1.3 million uninsured, the underinsured and small businesses seeking affordable options are able to access quality coverage.
Gill was a sponsor of the task force panel resolution and a member of it. Along with Gill, the panel is made up of: state Senator Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37), state Senator Joseph Vitale (D-19), state Senator Fred H. Madden (D-4), Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36), Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37), Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-7), and Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D-5).
Each of the Democrats on the panel were chosen largely because of their committee involvement on health care and similar matters.
Additionally, under the resolution (SCR-144); state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr (R-21) and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) will have the ability to appoint two members from their respective caucuses.
Assemblyman Conaway would add,
We need to monitor the implementation strategy for a state health insurance exchange now, and this task force will be a voice for the people to make sure it’s done right.
As individuals start to go to the marketplace and the task force panel evaluates the initial stage, the feedback and results will be the next stage in what has been a more than three year discussion and debate since ACA became a law.