January 27, 2021
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–The $1.25 billion Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey must pay New Jersey over the next 18 years needs to be used to reduce premiums, says Assemblyman Ron Dancer. The lawmaker recently introduced a constitutional amendment to guarantee lower health insurance costs for policyholders.
“Unless the annual assessments are constitutionally dedicated, they could be raided through the budget process to pay for unrelated things because the annual appropriations bill can override any statutory dedication of funds,” explained Dancer (R-Ocean). “We have to learn a lesson from diversions such as the use of energy bill taxes to pay for New Jersey Transit rather than true clean energy initiatives as intended. We must put the money in a constitutional lock box so that it can’t be used to balance the budget or for pet projects.”
New Jersey’s largest health insurer is required to make payments to the state, including $600 million this year, as part of legislation Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed allowing Horizon to transition from a not-for-profit business entity to a not-for-profit mutual holding company.
“Nearly half of the money happens to arrive in an election year,” said Dancer. “The $600 million can certainly make for a more electorate-pleasing budget, especially when there is less revenue due to Covid and business restrictions. The public will only be made more cynical about government priorities if we blow this windfall on new spending instead of dedicating it to help the 3.6 million Horizon members who paid it in the first place.”
If Dancer’s proposed constitutional amendment (ACR207) is advanced by the Legislature, voters would need to approve it during the following election.
“Neither this year’s payment nor the 17 following assessments are dedicated to any specific use whatsoever,” said Dancer. “We should be lowering the costs of health insurance for Horizon’s policyholders, not letting the state cash a check worth $1.25 billion dollars that it can spend at a whim.”
Dancer’s resolution has been referred to the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.