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WOODBRIDGE – The forum was about health care, but it wasn’t the best of mornings for Phil Murphy. One part of a Thursday program sponsored by the New Jersey Association of Health Underwriters included a discussion labeled “Straight Talk with John & Jack,” or in other words, a chat between Democrat John Wisniewski and Republican Jack Ciattarelli. Both are former assemblymen.
Wisniewski ran for governor against Murphy in the 2017 primary; Ciattarelli plans to run against the governor in two years.
So when the moderator asked each to assess the job the governor is doing, it really was a loaded question.
Wisniewski, who seems to share a lot with Murphy ideologically, said his performance is not what it should be.
To Wisniewski, it all comes down to inexperience. He said the governor doesn’t have the political “relationships that matter,” nor an institutional memory of how previous governors did things.
Ciattarelli was a bit blunter, joking about Murphy envisioning a state where everything is taxed, a lot of things are free and everyone can get high on pot. That line did O.K., but probably would have done better in a more partisan setting.
In a more serious vein, Ciattarelli faulted the governor for seemingly not addressing – or even talking about – such pressing state issues as property taxes and school funding.
Both were asked about their plans for 2021.
Ciattarelli reiterated his intention to run. No surprise there.
But Wisniewski was a bit coy. He said he is enjoying not being an elected official, but also likened public service to an “incurable disease.” He said he doesn’t know what will happen in 2021. He admitted this was a “non-answer.”
Interestingly, a speaker before “John & Jack” took the stage at the APA Hotel was George Norcross, one of Murphy’s political foes. Norcross may have enjoyed the discussion about the governor, but he left before it ensued. A pity.
Speaking in his capacity as chairman of the insurance company, Conner Strong & Buckelew. Norcross mentioned various Democratic proposals these days for so-called Medicare for All. As you can imagine, this is not a popular initiative with health insurance underwriters.
Norcross opposes Medicare for All, but he also offered some words of wisdom to the few hundred people attending the association’s 2019 state of healthcare in New Jersey forum.
He said the average family “has had it” with the rising cost of healthcare. Norcross attributed part of the problem to pharmaceutical costs, but added that some hospitals are to blame as well. He noted that some “non-profit” hospitals actually have “profit” margins of 10 percent.
Norcross said failure of the health care industry to find ways to cut costs is going to prompt more “extreme” solutions in the future. Hello to Medicare for All.
That seemed more like a warning than simple advice.