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Photo of website used to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care ActGov. Phil Murphy has signed into law a bill that would require New Jersey residents to have health coverage or pay a penalty.  The new law (S-1877) essentially mirrors the rules of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Protecting the viability of the individual mandate is needed to maintain a foundation for the insurance market and to allow the success of the ACA to continue,” said Senator Joe Vitale (D-19), chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “New Jersey has benefited from the health care law and we want to see that those benefits continue.”

The law, signed on Wednesday by the governor, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2019. New Jersey joins Massachusetts as one of only two states to enact such a mandate. NJBIA took a neutral position on the bill, as it continued federal law.

Along with the mandate, a companion law, S-1878, was also signed on Wednesday, establishing a reinsurance program to reimburse health carriers for claims payments that exceed a certain threshold to be established by New Jersey’s Department of Banking and Insurance.

NJBIA initially opposed the reinsurance program bill because one of the three funding sources was a tax on health plans in the individual and group insurance markets. NJBIA argued that the cost of health insurance was already too high and increasing it would make it difficult for employers to continue providing health benefits to their employers.

Ultimately, the bill was amended to remove the health plan tax and change the funding to include a general fund appropriation, which starts in FY 2021.

“Committee members understood the bind the original reinsurance program bill would have put employers in,” explained Mary Beaumont, NJBIA’s vice president for Health and Legal Affairs. “They agreed that adding more costs to group health plans was not the way to go. NJBIA is grateful for their understanding.”

Also along the healthcare front, the governor announced today the formation of a task force that will make recommendations to reform the $3.4 billion in state health plans, which comprise nearly 9.1 percent of the state budget.

The New Jersey State Health Benefits Quality and Value Task Force will meet monthly and recommend cost savings and other reforms by October, and then continue to meet to identify longer-term strategies, Murphy’s office said in a statement.