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On behalf of our 20,000 members, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) thanks the sponsors for recognizing the impact of modern technology on the provision of healthcare services.  Assembly Bill 1464 establishes a framework for the responsible use of telehealth and telemedicine services as an efficient way to treat residents of New Jersey.

While NJBIA supports this concept, we have serious concerns that in its current form, the bill adds costs to the overall healthcare system, rather than reducing them.  The bill requires health insurance carriers to provide coverage and pay for telemedicine services at the same rate as for in-person visits to physician offices. Telemedicine services can help reduce healthcare costs because they decrease the need for primary care office visits for less-complex health issues, and these services are currently in use in New Jersey.

NJBIA is concerned that this measure has not yet been reviewed by the Mandated Health Benefits Advisory Commission (MHBAC). To create an objective assessment of the impact health insurance coverage and payment mandates have on the cost of purchasing healthcare benefits, the Commission is charged with providing the Legislature with independent documentation defining the social and financial impact and medical effectiveness of proposed mandated health benefits legislation.

The Association places a strong and consistent focus on the quality and affordability of health insurance in New Jersey. The cost of providing health coverage to employees is one of the most significant challenges facing employers today.  It is consistently ranked the number one problem facing our members in our annual NJBIA Business Outlook Survey.

The role of the Commission is particularly important considering that employers continue to cope with rising costs for healthcare coverage.  In 2016, the cost of health insurance premiums reached $7,151 for single HMO coverage and $18,754 for family coverage in the Northeast, according to the Kaiser/HRET Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits. The national average for all plans is $6,435 for single coverage and $18,142 for family coverage.

According to the 2016 NJBIA Health Benefits Survey, the average premium paid in New Jersey for single employee coverage is $7,044 and $17,580 for family coverage.

With the cost of health coverage steadily climbing and coverage continually eroding, it is crucial that the impact this bill be carefully evaluated. It is unclear what impact this payment mandate would have on the cost of health insurance without a review by the MHBAC.

For these reasons, we respectfully ask that you vote “NO” on A-1464. Thank you for your consideration of our comments.

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