Gov. Chris Christie (Photo courtesy of the New Jersey governor's office)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, R, has vetoed state Assembly Bill 2171, a bill that would create a health insurance exchange, or Web-based insurance marketplace, in his state.

Christie says the state should wait until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) before moving ahead with efforts to create an exchange.

The lead sponsor of the bill, Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr., D-Delran, N.J., has blasted the veto.

“The governor has sent a clear message to the 1.3 million uninsured New Jerseyeans and the many others who are underinsured and struggle to afford their existing insurance,” Conaway says in a statement. “He doesn’t care.”

Christie says A.B. 2171, the New Jersey Health Benefits Exchange Act bill, would commit New Jersey to establishing and operating a new, Medicaid-like program for individuals with incomes between 133% and 200% of the federal poverty level without the state knowing how much federal funding will be available to support the plan.

“While I appreciate the Legislature’s attempt to find steady policy footing in these shifting legal sands, I am concerned that a hastily created exchange in New Jersey will impose unnecessary obligations upon the State’s citizens,” Christie says in a message explaining the veto.

PPACA opponents are fighting the act in Congress as well as in the courts.

If the act takes effect as written and works as drafters expect, it will help individuals and small groups use new tax credits to buy health coverage that meets minimum federal  standards. The federal government would let a state choose between letting any qualified, willing carrier sell coverage through an exchange or limiting access to carriers that go through some kind of bidding or negotiation process. 

A.B. 2171 would create an exchange that would be an “active purchase” and limit exchange access to carriers that go through a bidding process.

Christie says in the veto message that he believes the active purchase provisions could reduce exchange options and increase costs.

The bill would increase exchange costs by providing a $50,000 salary for each exchange board member, and it would exclude representation for some types of stakeholders from the exchange board, Christie says.

The bill calls for the 5 public members on the board to be indidividuals with expertise in individual health care coverage, small employer health care coverage, health benefits plan administration, health care finance and consumer health care advocacy.

Christie says state lawmakers approved A.B. 2171 March 15, shortly before the Supreme Court began oral arguments on PPACA. He says the bi

Christie says he intends to “fully oversee New Jersey’s compliance” with PPACA, if PPACA continues to stand, “in a responsible and cost-effective manner.”

Robin Ford, a senior fiscal analyst with the Legislature, concludes in a comment on A.B. 2171 that the bill likely would produce revenue as well as costs, but that it is not possible at this time to know what the costs and revenue will be.