Gov. Phil Murphy and most member’s of the state’s congressional delegation met Monday morning to line up their priorities on federal issues like the cap on state and local tax deductions, the Gateway Tunnel and offshore drilling, but the day’s focus was on healthcare.
“We want to use all of our megaphones over the next five days to make sure we get as many folks covered in the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, which ends on the 15th, Saturday, at midnight,” Murphy said.
Despite the governor’s efforts to shore up the ACA against federal policies the law’s proponents say undermine insurance exchanges, enrollment in New Jersey lagged 14% behind the previous year’s figures at the end of last week.
New Jersey previously passed a state-based individual mandate to replace the one phased out by congressional Republicans lasts year, and other policies have reduced average premiums in the state by about 9%.
“If it wasn’t for the fact that the state legislature and the governor stepped in and passed their own bill that would prevent the sabotage that we’re seeing on the federal level, then New Jerseyans would be in a lot worse shape,” Rep. Frank Pallone said.
Three of the state’s House members were absent Monday. Murphy said Rep.-elect Andy Kim (D-Marlton) missed the event for personal reasons. Rep.-elect Jeff Van Drew (D-Middle), a sitting state senator, was attending a pre-planned event with Murphy’s administration. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) called into the meeting.
Murphy said Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton), who will be the state’s only Republican representative come January 3, wanted to attend but was at a hearing in Washington.
It’s not clear where Smith stands on the state’s current efforts, but he has previously voted to repeal the ACA.
“The biggest urgency in the state of New Jersey right now is the next five days,” said U.S. Sen. Cory Booker. “We have to enroll in health insurance. Go to healthcare.gov. The reality is enrollment right now is down. That hurts everyone in the state financially. It drives up our charity care costs, it drives up financial instability, so the one thing I want to drive home is please, please, please register for health insurance.”