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On May 7, the NJBIA Health Affairs Policy Committee held a meeting with guest speakers Tiffany Guarascio, the Deputy Staff Director and Chief Health Adviser for the Office of Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. and Shabnam Salih, the Director of the New Jersey Office of Health Care Affordability and Transparency. 

Guarascio discussed Congressman Pallone’s work on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which he currently chairs, over the last year in the federal government’s COVID-19 response. The committee has focused on ensuring adequate funding for COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts. In March, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, expanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by extending eligibility for health care subsidies to individuals with incomes above 400% of the poverty level and increasing assistance for those who were already eligible.  

Moving forward, Guarascio discussed Congressman Pallone’s priorities of investing in health infrastructure and building on the American Rescue Plan’s ACA provisions. Guarascio highlighted the Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America Act (LIFT America Act), which includes provisions to fund the nation’s hospitals, labs, and State, local, Tribal, and territorial health departments.  

Other priorities for Congressman Pallone include addressing drug prices through the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, determining the path forward for telehealth services, and working on efforts to support the health care workforce.  

Later, Salih discussed the Murphy administration’s work on improving health care affordability and access. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Salih highlighted the launch of the state-based exchange last fall and touted the subsidies under the American Rescue Plan as game changers in improving affordability. Salih also emphasized the state’s efforts to ensure access through the state for COVID-19 testing and, more recently, vaccines.  

Moving forward, Salih highlighted a key priority of the Murphy administration in the FY22 budget: the Cover All Kids Campaign, which would seek to expand health benefits to the estimated 90,000 children in New Jersey without coverage. The Governor’s FY22 budget proposes $20 million to implement the first phase, whereby the DHS would focus enrolling children who are eligible for Medicaid coverage but have gone uninsured due to administrative hurdles. 

Finally, Salih discussed her recent work, pursuant to Executive Order 217, which established the Interagency Health Care Affordability Working Group consisting of Salih, as the Director of the New Jersey Office of Health Care Affordability and Transparency, and the Commissioners from DCA, DHS, DOBI, DOH, and the Treasury. The Working Group is tasked with improving health care affordability and transparency for New Jersey residents and, ultimately, putting health care cost growth benchmark in place by January 1, 2022. 

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