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Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Senate Republicans want special legislative committee to investigate health plan rate hike

Scutari says Senate will look at ways to address increase

By Joey Fox, August 09 2022 1:26 pm

In response to reports of a significant rate hike for New Jersey’s State Health Benefits Program (SHBP), Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho (R-Franklin) and State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver) have introduced a bill creating a subpoena-powered special legislative committee to investigate the proposed hike.

“The proposed premium increases will impact hundreds of thousands of state and local government workers, teachers, and retirees who will see their health care costs soar if the proposal is adopted,” Oroho said in a statement. “We must investigate the failures that led to these catastrophic premium increases to develop an effective plan going forward.”

Last month, a number of unions and county government officials began agitating about a rate increase as high as 24% for those covered by the SHBP – a far cry from the standard low-single-digit yearly increases. The Department of the Treasury has said that the unusual increase is due to Covid and inflation, and will normalize in future years.

The Republican-proposed committee would particularly focus on the state’s contract with Horizon, which Oroho and O’Scanlon said is in need of legislative oversight.

“While some of the higher costs may be attributable to inflation or the pandemic, it’s almost certain that Murphy administration mismanagement and lax oversight of state contracts with Horizon play a substantial role,” O’Scanlon said. “Our goal, however, isn’t to place blame. It’s to understand how we can lower the premium costs that will be paid by public workers, teachers, and taxpayers.”

Asked yesterday (before Oroho and O’Scanlon announced their committee proposal) about whether the Senate intends to take any action, Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Linden) said that he wasn’t sure what the legislature could do to address an issue that he said lies largely outside its purview.

“The Senate and the Assembly – we should have known about this during the budgetary process, and we weren’t made aware of it until now,” he said. “There’s very little that we could probably do about it, but we’ll look at it.”

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