Christie, a Republican, issued an executive order shutting down the state government Friday. He accused Vincent Prieto, the state Assembly speaker, of forcing the shutdown, by blocking passage of S-4, a state Senate bill that would impose new requirements on health care service corporations.
Horizon Blue is the only company in New Jersey chartered as a health care service corporation.
Christie says he’s counting on passage of S-4 to provide cash a multi-billion-dollar insurance company does not really need to pay for opioid abuse treatment programs.
Horizon Blue says the bill would let political appointees raid its reserves, and, in effect, take control of its operations,
“The bill is a giveaway to special interests who will make millions in windfall profits as insurance premiums skyrocket,” the company says.
A copy of S-4 is available here.
S-4 would require a health care service corporation based in New Jersey to:
Have a charitable mission.
Serve as the state’s “insurer of last resort.” This means that, if Congress changed the Affordable Care Act, and medical underwriting returned in the individual health market, the health care service corporation would have to cover all of the people commercial health insurers refused to cover.
Comply with a cap on capital surplus, or reserves, set by the state commissioner of banking and insurance.
Put what the state banking and insurance commissioner classifies as excessive reserves in a state health quality and wellness fund.
Let policyholders vote on 20% of its board seats.
Christie and Horizon Blue have waged a bitter war of press releases and press conferences over the bill. Christie’s team has posted many documents about the bill on the governor’s official press release website.
In a press conference on Thursday, Christie blamed Prieto for the budget impasse resulting from lack of lawmaker action on S-4.
“Is the speaker going to close state government to protect the multibillion-dollar insurance company?” Christie asked. “And you got to wonder what his incentive is here.”
Horizon Blue, in turn, has responded with many press releases, print ads, radio ads and lobbying efforts of its own.
Horizon Blue, which is based in Newark, New Jersey, ended 2016 providing or administering major medical coverage for about 3.8 million people.
The carrier reported $85 million in net income on $12 billion in revenue, for a profit margin of 0.7%.
The company had about $3 billion in capital reserves, or about $790 in reserves per major medical plan enrollee.
Insurer of Last Resort
In the past, Horizon Blue was New Jersey’s insurer of last resort. New Jersey lifted that requirement in 1992, when Horizon Blue was near the edge of bankruptcy.