Tag Archive: insurance

Thursday: Get Covered America hosting bi-lingual help session for uninsured New Jerseyans in WNY

Get Covered America to Assist Uninsured at Informational Event in West New York

Event will provide residents with bilingual information, in-person enrollment assistance for health insurance via the Marketplace

TRENTON, NJ – Tomorrow, December 5, Enroll America will bring the Get Covered America campaign to the City of West New York to hold an informational session and on-site enrollment with the Urban League of Hudson County.

The Get Covered America staff will offer assistance at the West New York United Pharmacy in both Spanish and English for participants who are seeking information about their options for affordable, quality health care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Get Covered America is a national campaign of Enroll America that is focused on educating consumers about the benefits of health insurance coverage and the new health care options that will be made available under the Affordable Care Act. Our grassroots team is powered by passionate staff and volunteers with one motivating goal: to give Americans the information they need to choose an affordable health insurance plan that’s right for them and their families.

What:                   Bilingual Informational and Enrollment Session for West New York Residents

Where:                West New York United Pharmacy, 6014 Bergenline Avenue, West New York, 07093

When:                  Thursday, December 5 at 4 p.m.

Who:                     Get Covered America

                             Urban League of Hudson County

Local contact:     Tatianna Castrillon, Organizer for Enroll America

How:                     To RSVP or for more details, please e-mail press@enrollamerica.org

 

Breaking News – Christie Vetoes Health Exchange Law

Governor Christie vetoed the Health Insurance Exchange law, guaranteeing that 1.3 million New Jerseyans will not have any health insurance, and even more will be underinsured. It means hospitals will be paying more for charity care, and the quality of life in New Jersey will go down. This action solidifies the governor’s unholy alliance with the extreme right wing of his party who value corporations over people.

Statement from Assemblyman Herb Conaway, MD, the prime sponsor of the bill:

 “The governor has sent a clear message to the 1.3 million uninsured New Jerseyeans and the many others who are underinsured and struggle to afford their existing insurance. He doesn’t care.

           “This legislation would have made quality and affordable health care possible for every New Jersey resident. It would have positioned New Jersey to help working people and small businesses receive billions of dollars in available federal tax credits to purchase insurance coverage.

           “Health care is not a commodity. No one should have to choose between their health and paying their bills. The exchange would have given individuals the ability to choose a health plan they could afford. It was supported by both houses, but more importantly, by an overwhelming majority of New Jerseyans worried about not being able to afford the health care services their families need.

           “Today, their concerns fell on deaf ears. By vetoing this bill, Gov. Christie has failed New Jersey’s uninsured residents, hurt New Jersey’s chances of fully benefiting from federal health care reform and ignored the need to provide relief to hospitals for uncompensated care.

           “I am disappointed that Gov. Christie put national political pressures ahead of the well-being of New Jersey. His actions have once again shown his complete disregard for our most vulnerable populations.”

What Will Christie Do?

Governor Christie has bragged about his support for small business in New Jersey. One of the ways to ease the burden on small business is to bring down health insurance costs and still allow these businesses to attract employees by making health insurance affordable.

Recently the legislature passed a bill to implement health insurance exchanges in the state. While required by the Affordable Care Act, even if our activist Supreme Court rules against the desires of the American public (a decision is expected next month), the New Jersey act implementing health exchanges will bring down the cost of insurance in our state where 1.3 million people are uninsured, and even more are underinsured.

The governor has until Thursday to sign, veto, or conditionally veto the bill. Will he do the right thing, or will he succumb to his national political ambitions and placate the extreme right wing which has taken control of his party?

This afternoon, a coalition of health care advocates and small business owners held a press conference in Trenton. Two sponsors of the bill, Assemblymen Herb Conaway and Troy Singleton spoke along with a small high-tech business owner and a part-time Rutgers lecturer.





Here’s a link to an interview with Assemblyman Conaway that was recorded last month
. In that interview, he explains the concepts of health insurance exchanges and how they save the state money.

A Ten Minute Tutorial on Health Care in NJ and the USA

There are few people more qualified to discuss health care than Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington). With degrees in both law and medicine, Conaway’s position as the Chair of the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee is a natural fit.

Conaway’s credentials bely the fact that he’s one of the smartest in the Gang of 120+1 on State Street. Unlike many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, he rarely channels his position through a political lens and he explains his positions with well thought-out rationale, not sound bites.

I spoke with Conaway about health care in the state and the nation earlier today in the State House. We talked about his bill to establish health exchanges (now on the Governor’s desk), the shortage of physicians, malpractice reform, upcoming health initiatives, and the upcoming Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act. He also provides some useful advice about how patients can make more informed health decisions.





Pay to Play Trumps SHBP

promoted by Rosi

As aggravating as The Star Ledger’s editorial page has been lately (in regards to its general animus towards the NJEA and public sector unions in general) , I was happy to see today’s editorial, N.J. municipalities waste millions when buying insurance.

The reason I was glad to see the editorial is two fold. One, I concur with the editorial.  The health insurance industry is extremely complex, most cannot grasp it (which is one reason mayors get away with flim flam pay to play broker business).  The reality is that there are power in numbers especially when it comes to a self insured plan, like the SHBP.   Towns that go out and purchase private, fully insured health benefits for small to medium groups cannot realistically compete with a self insured health and prescription plan that has hundreds of thousands of members in it.  Unless these small groups are purchasing benefits with drastically less value (which is not the case) than the SHBP, the argument that they are being prudent is ridiculous.

More below the fold …

Free Market Birth Control Solution

I’m new to this making policy proposals, but I think there is an easy way for protect religious freedom while promoting a market based solution to concerns about birth control coverage.  First, let’s settle a couple of points up front.  Religious affiliated organizations should not be forced to provide birth control coverage if it goes against the tenants of their faith.  Second, birth control decreases the overall costs of health insurance by decreasing pregnancies, particularly those that are unwanted, while also serving legitimate medical purposes unrelated to birth control.

If we can agree on those two points, it seems that the following solutions would follow:

Any religious institution opposed to providing birth control, which reduces the cost of health care, will be permitted to pay a higher premium to cover the cost of implementing their conscience bond choice.

At the same time, insurance companies, who seek to maximize profits, would be permitted to negotiate incentives with individuals regarding the use of birth control.

I see this as a win-win-win.  Religious freedom wins and institutions are free to pay the higher cost of not providing preventive medicine; insurance companies have the opportunity to use market forces instead of government dictates to drive their bottom line; and women, I think in the end, will have greater access to birth control.

I recognize that this is my first blog – ever!   Please be gentle.  I know I have not worked all the numbers, but it just seems to make sense to me.  Instead of forcing intuitions to “pay” for birth control, simply allow them to NOT benefit from the financial savings of providing it.

Purity troll Adler must already be looking for a cushy job for after he loses.

We’ve written quite a bit over the past few days (and months) about soon-to-be one term Congressman John Adler’s sticking his thumb in the eye of those who helped elect him – those who thought they were getting the Congressional version of John Adler the progressive State Senator and not someone who would look to sell out his supporters for the pipe dream of gaining any Republican support for his willingness to so frequently “prove his independence” from the Democratic Party.

And even as he tells those who he is selling out that he is not voting for the health care bill, he talks about all of the things that are in the bill that he likes, but then offers up a generic weak sauce “it won’t fix our broken health care system” excuse for voting against it.  

As if there was some magic perfect bill that will suddenly fix everything.  Aside from the fact that this letter looks a lot like the ones we see up here in the 5th District from Scott Garrett on just about everything – “I like it but there is something that I don’t like so I have to vote no” – there are a couple of things worth noting.

It is pretty much universally accepted that one of the biggest issues with “the broken health care system” is the abuses by the insurance industry; whether it be retroactive denial of care or the “pre-existing condition” denials or the obscene jacking up of rates arbitrarily or the miles of red tape to get anything paid for.  But while more than 10% of Adler’s district is uninsured, he has been one of the health insurance industry’s bestest friends, taking more than $400,000 from the health industry in his less than one term (compare to first term Republican Leonard Lance, who has taken almost 40% less than Adler).  That total is also more than Sires, Smith, Garrett and Payne – and not all that much less than LoBiondo or Holt.

When it comes to Adler’s history of siding with the obstructionist Republicans, President Obama made a very good point as it relates to this particular bill:

if they vote against it, then they’re going to be voting against health care reform and they’re going to be voting in favor of the status quo.

 Interestingly, voting as a Republican for the status quo against Democratic bills is something Adler is very fond of, casting close to 100 votes in his less than one term against the Democratic Party.

Either Adler doesn’t realize that this will (1) not endear him to his base as well as not gain him any votes from Republicans, or (2) realizes it but doesn’t care.  Neither is a good outcome, and we can bet to see former Congressman John Adler as an insurance industry or Wall Street lobbyist (or with a cushy job a la Harold Ford) come next January.

Is Garrett fearful of a level playing field for healthcare?

As Jason notes just below, Congressman Scott Garrett is quick to use fear and hyperbole when talking about his views of healthcare reform.  And the interesting thing with all of his fearmongering is the  complete absence of some of the most basic underlying concerns on why health insurance providers are able to collude, deny coverage and hike rates by however much they feel like.

So, with it being time for him to actually put the considerable money he gets from Big Insurance where his mouth is on the bill that Congressman Pallone discussed on repealing the antitrust exemption for insurance companies, what does he do?

Yup – he votes for collusion and price gouging and less competition (one of only 19 House members).  

Here is some context:

Congressman Pallone recently posted about repealing the antitrust exemption that health insurance companies currently enjoy (linked above).  And while this may not be the only reason why rates have been hiked and competition is all but eliminated, the simple fact remains is that there are industry wide price and competition abuses that are fostered by the exemption.

Now, there is more than just the anti-trust exemption at issue.   There have been over 400 corporate mergers in the healthcare industry since the late 1990’s, and the Department of Justice/Federal Trade Commission were about as hands off as could be with respect to the mergers and the elimination of competition that resulted from it.   Towards the back of this link is a summary of some major mergers and how they weren’t really challenged, just to provide more context.  As a result of this, the five largest providers of group health insurance companies controlled 75 percent or more of the market in 34 states, and 90 percent or more in 23 of those states, a significant increase in concentration over a six year period.

So, back to Garrett – he is always in favor of more competition and more “market forces”.  Even his own website section on healthcare talks about competition across state lines.  But without a removal of the antitrust exemption, this is close to a nonstarter.  And because of the lack of oversight on the hundreds of mergers that occurred, the competition that he talks about was bound to disappear rapidly.  It is clear that when it comes to standing up for the very principles he purports to have, Garrett is nothing more than a walking hypocrite and contradiction.

Frank LoBiondo: It’s common sense that many Americans must go without health care

Today’s Sunbeam talked to Rob Andrews and a spokeman for Frank LoBiondo to get their takes on Barack Obama’s health care efforts.  Andrews was supportive — pointing out that voters endorsed reform by voting for Obama — but LoBiondo opposes the entire idea. After some standard Republican lines about small business taxes that is misleading at best, LoBiondo’s spokesman got to the point:

Still, LoBiondo supports health care reform, but he thinks the problem should be addressed in pieces. For example, Galanes said, LoBiondo’s recent support of the expansion of a key children’s health insurance program was one such piece.

“There needs to be a consensus approach to this and common-sense solutions,” Galanes said. “…There isn’t one avenue. You have to look at the entire situation by pieces.”

I’ve certainly praised LoBiondo for supporting the SCHIP children’s program, but this statement tells us that LoBiondo believes that universal coverage is not important. But is it “common sense” to work on reducing those without insurance from 46 million to 40 million, but not work to get the number close to zero? I don’t think so. There are already 83 million people with government coverage, so there can be no “common sense” objections against government involvement in health care. It’s just that the so-called moderates can’t look around and see that we are trapped in their “common sense” non-solutions because of accidents of history. Meanwhile, the giant car companies teeter on the edge of bankruptcy while small businesses leave their employees uncovered.  And if you’re laid off due to the uncontrollable forces of the recession, you’re out of luck.

Cross-posted at Frank LoBiondo Record

Garden State Equality-Zogby Poll Breaks New Ground

Overlooked by Blue Jersey was a perhaps the first ever question in a poll regarding discrimination against transgender people by some insurance companies!

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In a new Zogby poll commissioned by Garden State Equality,New Jersey voters say it is unfair for insurance companies to deny coverage for medical treatments vital to gender transition

           To see all the questions and answers from the new Zogby Poll –

including on state and national politics and on marriage equality –

visit www.GardenStateEquality.org

Contact:  Steven Goldstein, cell (917) 449-8918

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 – In a Zogby poll of New Jersey released today, a clear majority of New Jersey voters believe insurance companies unfairly discriminate against transgender people by not covering the medical treatments vital to gender transition.   52.6 percent said this denial by insurance companies is unfair, while only 35.8 percent said it is fair.  

Excluding the 11.6 percent who said they are not sure, 60 percent of respondents who offered an opinion said the denial by insurance companies is unfair.

The poll of 803 likely New Jersey voters was taken from August 7 through August 11, 2008 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.   Though Garden State Equality commissioned the poll, Zogby collected the data independently.

               The new poll may mark the first time that any poll has asked about the discrimination that a number of insurance companies perpetrate against transgender people.

Even though New Jersey is a worldwide leader in banning discrimination against transgender people – the state’s Law Against Discrimination, hate crimes and anti-school bullying laws all encompass gender identity or expression – a number of insurance companies still refuse to cover medical treatments that doctors deem vital to gender transition.    The American Medical Association has said such denials are discriminatory.

               “It is outrageous that some insurance companies deny vital health coverage to transgender citizens even though our state outlaws it,” said Barbra Casbar Siperstein, vice-chair of Garden State Equality and political director of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey.   “Our state must act to ensure that all insurance companies follow the law.”

               Since Garden State Equality was founded in 2004, New Jersey has enacted transgender equality laws by some of the largest margins of victory ever for LGBT legislation.   In 2006, the legislature amended the state’s Law Against Discrimination to encompass gender identity or expression by a combined Assembly-Senate vote of 102 to 8.    In 2008, the legislature enacted a law that amended the state’s hate crimes law to include gender identity or expression – and that also strengthened the state’s anti-school-bullying law – by a combined Assembly-Senate vote of 110 to 10.

“As proud as we are of our record, we will never be complacent in fighting every last shred of discrimination that transgender people face,” said Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality.   “Not all insurance companies discriminate against our beloved transgender sisters and brothers, but a number certainly do.  And to them we say, beware.  Your illegal and medically unconscionable discrimination will come to an end.”

Here is the exact question in the Zogby Poll:

New Jersey law prohibits discrimination against transgender citizens – people who identify with a gender different from their birth gender.  Nonetheless, a number of insurance companies refuse to cover medical treatments that doctors deem vital to gender transition.  Do you consider this denial by insurance companies to be fair or unfair?

Fair                        35.8%

Unfair                   52.6%

Not sure              11.6%

Though there were few demographic and geographic differences in response to the question, Democratic voters and younger voters – as is typical in polling – responded most favorably to the LGBT community.   61.1 percent of Democrats said the insurance companies’ discrimination is unfair, while only 26.9 percent of Democrats said it is fair.    62.1 percent of voters 18 to 29 years old said the insurance companies’ discrimination is unfair, while 30.9 percent of voters 18 to 29 said it is fair.