McKeon: Can Horizon be ‘that Reptile?’

Assemblyman McKeon

Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27) wants Horizon-Blue Cross Blue Shield to be “that reptile,” which adapts to its surroundings and survives, rather than an Ice Age-zapped dinosaur. That was his metaphor of choice Tuesday as he chaired the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee and considered legislation to overhaul the company’s not-for-profit corporate structure, to be formally introduced in committee on Dec. 10th.

“It constitutes something pretty close to what’s important to advance, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement,” said McKeon, who received some early pushback from progressive groups worried about the bill. “We’re dealing with 3.6 million covered lives [and about 6,000 employees] …Blue Cross Blue Shield has 42 percent of our market here in the state of New Jersey. …This is about modernizing their business model without removing their not-for-profit status.”

The company “creates real outcomes for real people. [The legislation is] about creating a better Horizon. [But because of] restrictive rules, we are limited by state law to how much we can invest in state programs,” said Kevin Conlin, Horizon’s executive chairman of the board. “Even with this change we will remain a benevolent company.

“Our competitors are without any of these restrictions,” he noted, which includes a cap on the amount of capital the company can amass.

Part of the company’s controversial restructuring would include expanding the board from 17 members to 20, giving seven picks to the governor, senate president and speaker.

Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt (D-6) asked Conlin what the company would invest in at the outset, if the enabling legislation were to pass.

“That’s not something we’ve actually finalized; we didn’t want to get out over our skis,” said Conlin.

Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-17) expressed skepticism about Horizon lacking money, and noted the large salaries of the company’s executives.


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