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Opposition to Christie’s Horizon Blue Cross insurance bill grows

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to use reserve funds from the state’s largest insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, to pay for other state programs.

Opponents of his proposal say the move would amount to a tax on Horizon policy holders. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy released a statement yesterday opposing the plan.

“I welcome all efforts to have a robust and transparent conversation about how we ensure all New Jerseyans have access to affordable, high-quality health care,” Murphy said. “As I have said previously, I have serious concerns with the governor’s proposal to raid Horizon’s surplus at a time when Republicans in Washington are threatening to gut the ACA. The Governor is now once again holding hostage funding for public education and critical programs in order to score a cheap political victory. While Democrats in the legislature have worked hard to find compromise, we simply need more time to give this policy a proper vetting.”

State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said last week “that in no way shape or form” would he support the bill that would take $300 million from not-for-profit health insurance provider Horizon’s reserve fund.

Christie’s Horizon “transparency” measure would force the company to give up some of its surplus to fund drug treatment programs and other initiatives. The bill gives the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance the authority in 2017 to examine the size of Horizon’s surplus and deposit any amount deemed excessive into the state’s Health and Wellness Fund. The bill would also require that Horizon post information online about the compensation of its top officers.

Some legislators fear that a diversion of any money from Horizon would drive up premiums for the insurer’s 3.8 million policy holders.

“If reserves are considered to be in ‘excess,’ our first obligation should be to those who paid into those reserves, not taking their hard-earned dollars to create a special fund for whatever projects the Department of Banking and Insurance deems fit at the time,” Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) said. “Allowing this would essentially amount to a tax solely on Horizon policyholders to fund state initiatives.”

Horizon reported $11.5 billion in revenue and paid about $515 million in federal and state taxes and insurance assessments in 2015, according to the company’s website. The nonprofit held about $2.4 billion in reserves last year.

Last week, Christie said the New Jersey Department of Human Services had levied a $15.5 million fine on Horizon for “systemic” mishandling of thousands of claims over the past year and for misreporting some financial information to the state. He used the forum to renew his call for the transparency legislation.

The head of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said Christie’s bill all but advocates a takeover of Horizon and would give the state’s insurance commissioner too much authority.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • RIK

    All of a sudden Christie is worried about opioid addiction and state programs that will cost Blue Cross subscribers increased premiums. He is a fraud and a disgrace to the republican party. He does not care at all about the people who support this corrupt out of control government with their hard earned tax dollars. He has done nothing to alleviate or bring to the publics attention the out of control Real Estate Taxes which republicans have promised to reduce.

  • Tom Woodward

    This is outrageous! Targeting one organization and trying to steal their funds! I thought Chris was supposed to be a Republican? I have a better idea: the state should take over the NY Jets. At least the politicians couldn’t f&*$ that up anymore than Woody Johnson has….

  • Natalie

    No to Christie!!!

  • Donnie Yen

    Pres Trump creates jobs and Christie and State Senate eliminate thousands by Horizon going out of business. Christie is a real sleaze. Why wasn’t he jailed for BRIDGEGATE LIKE HIS CRONIES?

  • Donnie Yen

    NO TO CHRISTIE!

  • Carol

    Christie has truly gone insane. What other insurance company’s reserves are fair game? Why not? They abide by the same accounting and tax rules to set theirs… He is just attacking the only not for profit company who has humbly served nj members for 85 years. Tobacco was taxed. Tax pharma to pay for the new opiod program. There’s far more money available to create programs there. And he just might actually target the real problem! What is going on here? We must demand answers to these questions!

  • John

    As a Horizon BC/BS of NJ senior customer (Supplemental Medicare), I strongly resent yet another Christie overreach and maneuver to score political points. Assemblywoman Muoio hit the nail on the head with her comment that this amounts to a tax on us Horizon policyholders. You can bet that Horizon will increase our premiums (even more than they would otherwise) to replenish their surplus which is needed for unusual spikes in highly volatile health care costs. Made even worse by the decrease and uncertainty in funding should the current Republican version of ACA reform ever pass.

    This is even worse than the huge giveaway to corporate interests that Christie perpetrated during his first year in office. He “forgave” something on the order of $100 million (I believe it was) in corporate debts owed to the State of New Jersey. No reason given – just to make his CEO friends happy so that they would help fund his re-election campaign. This inexcusable loss of “accounts receivable” by the State meant that every taxpayer had to cough up more on their next Sate tax bill…… or that essential State services were cut even more.

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