Democrats Ram Horizon Restructuring Bill

Assemblyman McKeon

Assembly Republicans tried to make it about lowering health costs.

That wasn’t a bad strategy, but it failed today in a mostly party-line vote.

Democrats used their strong majority to pass legislation that allows Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield to be restructured from a health services company to a mutual holding company. This seemingly technical change dominated Trenton for the last two weeks or so and required multiple days of legislative hearings.

Supporters say the change will allow Horizon to expand and to eventually offer better health insurance. Equally important perhaps are plans for a $600 million payment to the state.

Essex County Democrat John McKeon, the bill’s sponsor, praised Horizon’s 88-years of service to New Jersey and said that despite the restructuring, the company will remain a non-profit. And just to make sure there is no funny business, the Department of Banking and Industry and the state Attorney General will be watching.

Republicans didn’t really question any of that.

But they zeroed in on the $600 million payment to the state. Why not send that money directly to Horizon policyholders?

After all, as Hal Wirths of Sussex County noted, that’s where Horizon’s money comes from.

Republican Nancy Munoz of Union County a bit snidely suggested that Democrats only seem to care about “affordable health care” when it suits them politically.

Jon Bramnick, the Minority Leader, added that the complex bill says nothing about lowering premiums.

Republicans proposed amending the bill to dedicate that $600 million to policyholders, but Democrats used their might to table the move. They then adopted the bill.

Addressing the Republicans’ gripes, McKeon said payments from Horizon are not new and always have been handled the same way.

He said Republicans were being “disingenuous.”

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