NJBIA's Annual Public Policy Forum - Planning Prosperity REGISTER NOW

New Jersey is creating its own Affordable Care Act (ACA)-style health insurance exchange so it can have more control over its marketplace.

That’s according to Justin Zimmerman, chief of staff for the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, who presented a detailed overview of where the project stands to about 50 people at NJBIA’s Health Affairs Policy Committee meeting Friday morning.

When the ACA mandated that states either create their own insurance exchange or use a federal one, then-Gov. Chris Christie opted for the federal one. The Murphy administration has reversed course.

Currently, New Jersey has moved to operating its own exchange but on the federal exchange platform. The Murphy administration has hired two companies to develop the exchange, signing contracts with GetInsured to run the technology platform and MAXIMUS to run the consumer assistance center.

“Our overarching goal for the state-based exchange is to improve access to coverage and care for all New Jersey residents,” Zimmerman said. “And this move will allow the administration to advance the Affordable Care Act and to begin to stabilize the individual market.”

The move will provide New Jersey with three benefits, Zimmerman said. It will allow for greater innovation in the individual market because the state will not be bound by all of the federal rules. It will provide New Jersey with about $50 million a year to run the exchange instead of sending that money to Washington, D.C. And it will allow for a more robust outreach during open enrollment.

“In my opinion, the state-based exchange is the future of innovation for the individual market and will allow for any innovative policy decisions,” Zimmerman said. “If we don’t have a state-based exchange, we are extremely limited on what the market is able to do and what policies the state is able to implement.”

That increased control will provide greater access to healthcare data from the exchange and new resources from the 3.5% assessment on monthly insurance premiums sold on the individual market. That money was sent to the federal exchange under the old arrangement.

The administration’s first move is to bolster outreach to those who need insurance. Last year, New Jersey received $300,000 to pay for one “navigator” to help consumers make their way through the process of buying health insurance. By moving to a state exchange on the federal platform, the state will have $1.6 million for five navigators plus another $1.5 million for marketing in 2020.

When it moves to the full state-based platform, the state expects the funding and number of navigators to increase even more. Additionally, it will be able to increase the open enrollment period from six weeks to three months.

The new exchange is expected to be up and running by Nov. 1.