NJ Needs Its Own Health Insurance Exchange

There are lyrics from one of my favorite old Beatles’ song that many baby boomers – those like me who after many years of gainful employment lost their jobs – can relate to. It’s something like this:

“. . . Out of college, money spent, see no future, pay no rent, all the money’s gone, nowhere to go, but oh that magic feeling, nowhere to go . . .”

But the difference for many of us whose unemployment benefits and health insurance have ceased that “magic feeling” can be more accurately described as anxiety, worry or fear.

As an unemployed senior, not yet eligible for Medicare, I recently had to select health insurance coverage. I found the process more confusing than I expected because the comparison of benefit plans with lower premiums often equated to higher copayments and deductibles, or limitations on coverage and/or the lifetime policy limits. Ultimately, I chose an individual health insurance plan that will deplete my lifetime savings before the end of the year.

Like many baby boomers, I would benefit from the implementation of a Health Insurance Exchange in New Jersey, a federally subsidized health insurance benefits program designed to bring needed transparency and assistance to compare and select a health plan that meets one’s needs.

The Exchange legislation, introduced in both the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly, intends to reduce the state’s uninsured population by opening up a market for affordable and quality health care coverage. In addition, it prohibits health insurers issuing individual and small employer group plans from competing on the basis of risk selection as a means to avoid providing coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions or to provide coverage at excessive premium rates.

Moreover, an Exchange that is consumer friendly, managed by consumer representatives instead of the health insurance industry, would provide individuals with meaningful choices through information that is centralized, understandable and meaningful. As a baby boomer, one of the boomers comprising approximately 30 percent of the state’s population, I and my fellow baby boomers will have the most to gain from a good health insurance exchange that by 2014 will include federal subsidies to enable every citizen to afford health insurance, not just those who are working and are lucky enough to have employer sponsored health insurance.

As an AARP volunteer, I urge the New Jersey Legislature and Governor Christie to take advantage of this opportunity that will meet the needs of New Jersey citizens for comprehensive, affordable, and accessible health care coverage. Failure to implement an exchange would hurt Garden State citizens who need help the most.

Nadine Banks
AARP Advocacy Volunteer

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