As lawmakers in Washington move to repeal the Affordable Care Act, one Democratic candidate for governor is reviving a radical idea: transform New Jersey’s private health insurance system into a state-run single-payer model.
Democrat Lisa McCormick proposed the Healthy New Jersey Act, a comprehensive universal single-payer health care coverage program, but she expects fierce opposition from much of the political establishment.
McCormick says private health insurance would be replaced with a state-run program that would guarantee coverage to all New Jerseyans and would bring down the cost of health care.
“Given the uncertainty of what’s happening at the federal level with President Trump hell-bent on the demise of the Affordable Care Act, it’s up to New Jersey to come up with a better plan for how we deliver health care to millions of New Jerseyans,” McCormick said.
“Under the Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured in our state is at a historic low, and we’ve slowed rising health care costs,” McCormick said. “Naturally, Republicans intend to screw that up,” McCormick said. “President Trump and Republicans in Congress have pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but after six years they still have no plan to replace it.”
Measures of this kind of system have been proposed elsewhere but the United States remains the only industrial nation that does not provide universal health coverage. More than 100 low- and middle-income countries, home to three-quarters of the world’s population, have taken steps to deliver universal health coverage and reap the economic and human benefits that come with it. There are at least 58 countries with legislation mandating universal health care, with greater than 90% health insurance coverage and skilled birth attendance.
In 1994, Golden State voters rejected a ballot measure that would have established a single-payer system, then California lawmakers passed single-payer bills in 2006 and again in 2008, but Republicans Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed those measures.
In 2011, Vermont became the first U.S. state to agree to establish a single-payer program, but the effort fizzled three years later over concerns about the cost. The United Nations unanimously endorsed universal health coverage in 2012.
“Healthy New Jersey gives everyone insurance, because everyone has a right to health care,” McCormick said. “Trump and the Republicans won’t get to pick the health care winners and losers, and we will get to 100% health care in New Jersey as we lead the nation to universal coverage.”
“Access to affordable and quality health care should be a universal human right for everyone, everywhere,” McCormick said. “In light of threats to the Affordable Care Act, it’s important that we look at all options to maintain and expand access to health care. The Healthy New Jersey Act is an essential part of that conversation.”
“Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to shred the Affordable Care Act is a hard-right wish list that will cover fewer people and cost more, and a huge step backward from our goal of universal care,” McCormick said. “We need a way to cover the millions of people who will lose insurance or pay more under Republicans’ plan, and that’s why I will continue working to create a universal health care plan to cover all Americans.”
“The fundamental question asks, who is going to pay for it?” said McCormick, noting that a single-payer plan would better address rising costs.
“Whether you’re paying with premiums or with taxpayer dollars, in a single-payer system we have more fundamental power to control health care costs,” she said. “New Jersey is uniquely situated to pass a single-payer plan right now, given that we have a Democratically-controlled legislature and Democrats have a core belief of health care as a human right.”
McCormick’s plan comes as local and state officials are discussing how to deal with the possible loss of billions of federal health care dollars.
The uninsured rate in New Jersey has fallen by 34 percent since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted in 2010, translating into 398,000 New Jersey residents gaining coverage, according December 2016 data compiled by the Department of U.S. Health and Human Services.
Through the ACA Marketplace, 249,395 New Jersey residents have obtained coverage and 205,242 moderate- and middle-income New Jersey residents receive tax credits averaging $322 per month to help defray healthcare coverage.
Governor Chris Christie’s stated goal of dealing with drug addiction and mental health issues only emphasizes the need for a sound health care system with access for New Jersey residents and all Americans.
Healthy New Jersey Highlights:
Asserts that all residents have the right to health care.
Every New Jersey resident has one plan and more choices.
No more guesswork when insurance rates or plans change.
You pick your doctor, not health insurers
Clinicians make decisions about care, not computers
By pooling health care funds the public gets bargaining power
We cut out insurance company duplication, waste and profiteering
No more out of control co-pays and high deductibles
Public oversight on costs and care, not decisions made in secret
Manage prescription drug costs with fair bargaining
McCormick’s Healthy New Jersey Act proposes a state single-payer health care system that:
Ensures that all New Jersey residents receive quality health care, regardless of income;
Promotes public health through the prevention of injury and diseases;
Does not restrict, delay or deny care;
Reduces costs through increased quality of care, prevention, efficiency, and reduced bureaucracy;
Allows patients to choose their own providers;
Ensures an adequate number of qualified health care professionals and facilities to guarantee availability of — and timely access to — quality care throughout the State; and
Reduces health care disparities by race, age, gender, income, sexual orientation, disability, religion and geographic region
- All NJ Residents without regard to legal status and without regard to where the care is provided.
- Any non-resident working in New Jersey
- Any person who presents for urgent care
Coverage and Benefits:
- All benefits shall be portable
- No deductions, co-payments, co-insurance
- All medically necessary care including:
- Primary care and Prevention
- Inpatient and Outpatient Care
- Prescription Drugs
- Palliative Care
- Long-term Care
- Emergency Services
- Emergency Transportation
- Durable Medical Equipment
- Mental Health Services
- Dental Services other than cosmetic
- Substance Abuse Treatment
- Chiropractic Services
- Alternative Therapies*
- Ancillary Social Services
- Case Management and Care Coordination
- Language Translation including Braille, Signing, etc.
- Approved Dietary and Nutritional Therapies
- All providers licensed in the State of New Jersey
- Providers to include public, private non-profit, or private for-profit
- Must allow consumers to pick any participating medical provider
- Providers will be promptly reimbursed for all covered services
- Reimbursement to providers will be based on Medicare reimbursement policy and rates
- All federal payments to the state for health care
- NJ Income Tax based on ability to pay
- All subrogation rights to any payment any covered person may have from any other source
- Creates an Auditor General for the New Jersey Health Plan to monitor fraud and abuse
- Creates an independent Ombudsman to represent the interests of consumers and patients
Job Displacement and Retraining:
- Gives New Jersey Health Board the responsibility to provide financial assistance in retraining and job placement for workers displaced by the creation of the New Jersey Health Plan.
*Those deemed to be safe and effective by the National Institute of Health National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine