What business owner has looked at the cost of their health insurance bill and not wondered why it’s so expensive? Well, now they have someone dedicated to getting them answers.

In his State of the State address three weeks ago, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the creation of the Office of Health Care Affordability and Transparency to make information on costs more accessible to the public. Earlier today, at a roundtable discussion on healthcare affordability, he introduced the office’s new executive director, Shabnam Salih.

“Many families lose sleep over the cost of health insurance coverage, how to pay their medical expenses, and about the financial turmoil an unexpected accident or illness will cause,” Murphy said. “Our new Office of Health Care Affordability and Transparency will continue our work and lead the effort to ensure all New Jerseyans have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare….”

Salih has been a senior policy advisor to the Governor for most of his term and advanced key priorities in the area of health, human services, health insurance, and children and families.

“I know firsthand, and through the experience of close family and friends, how frightening and stressful it is to be priced out of affordable healthcare and coverage,” Salih said. “Through Governor Murphy’s commitment and leadership, we have made important progress protecting consumers and creating healthcare savings, but we recognize there is more work to be done.”

NJBIA Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas, who attended the event, said separately that the high cost of health insurance is one of the biggest challenges to New Jersey businesses as well. The cost of providing health benefits to their employees ranks among their biggest concerns.

“Out of necessity, employers have become very proactive in managing health benefit costs and would welcome the ability to get good, detailed information on how their healthcare dollars are being spent,” Buteas said.

The office will develop a strategic plan for improved consumer affordability, healthcare quality, cost transparency, and taxpayer savings. The office will work closely with several departments across the administration to implement a variety of strategic initiatives to achieve these goals, including the development of data foundation within the Department of Banking and Insurance.

The roundtable discussion featured key administration leaders, including the commissioners of the Departments of Health, Banking and Insurance, and Treasury, as well as Assemblyman Herb Conaway, a doctor and a leader in healthcare policy in the Legislature.

Conaway for one thinks consumers will be effective at controlling healthcare costs, but first they need to know what those costs are.

“You go to the store to buy bread, you know whether the bread costs more (at one store over another).  You have a sense of what eggs cost. You know what the price is generally that you’re going to pay for things,” Conaway said. “We don’t have that in healthcare, and that’s a problem.”

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