New Jersey kicks off its open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act on Sunday, debuting its state-based health care exchange and giving residents six extra weeks to sign up for coverage.
New Jersey this year is joining the District of Columbia and 14 other states in operating its own state-based exchange, instead of the federal Healthcare.gov. New Jersey's new site, GetCoveredNewJersey.gov, lets residents compare the prices of plans and sign up for plans in the state's individual market.
New Jersey's enrollment period will stretch to Jan. 31, six weeks longer than last year and more than a month beyond the federal exchange's deadline of Dec. 15. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's administration says it set up the new site to “secure better access” to health coverage.
This year's open enrollment comes just as the Supreme Court is about to hear arguments a week after the election in a case aimed at overturningPresident Barack Obama's signature health care law, commonly called the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.
Some 20 million Americans could lose their health coverage and protections for people with preexisting health conditions also would be put at risk if the court agrees with President Donald Trump's administration. In New Jersey, more than 800,000 people have coverage under the act, both from the individual health care marketplace as well as under expanded Medicaid.
If the court strikes the law down, it would impose a huge burden on the state, which covers 10% of the cost for people getting coverage under the Medicaid expansion, Murphy said in an interview. The federal government carries 90% of the cost.
Beyond the cost to the state budget, Murphy pointed to the nearly 3 million people with preexisting conditions whose coverage he worried would be affected, as well as children who can stay on their parents' plans until 26 under the law.
“It would be devastating for New Jersey," Murphy said. “It is a jaw-dropping concept to even try to fathom, but unfortunately it’s far from abstract given the current administration and the Supreme Court."
The case before the court this year stems from Congress’ 2017 decision to eliminate the law’s unpopular fines for not having health insurance.
Murphy and the Democratic-led Legislature enacted a state-level mandate in 2019 that carries a penalty of 2.5% or $695 per taxpayer, whichever is greater.
Congress left in place the law’s requirement that virtually all Americans have coverage. Texas and other conservative-led states argue that the change makes the requirement unconstitutional and dooms the rest of the law.
But the court could simply “sever” the mandate from the law and leave the rest of the law alone. Many observers have said that is a likely outcome and note the upheaval that would result across the American health care system if the law were to be entirely struck down.
In New Jersey, residents with income under 400% of the federal poverty level can qualify for subsidies. For someone making about $51,000 a year, that means a break of at least $578, according to the state's Department of Banking and Insurance. For a family of four making about $105,000 a year, the subsidy would be $2,313.
The state subsidies are supported by a new tax on health insurers, which goes into effect in January. The legislation, which Murphy signed in July, sets a levy of 2.5% of the net value of health insurance premiums. The law then applies those proceeds to certain health insurance markets, specifically those in the individual market, including minors.