Tag Archive: NJPIRG

Players in the Life and Death Game Of The Affordable Care Act

There are about 1.3 million people in NJ without health insurance – people who forgo needed doctor visits, can not afford medicines, avoid surgery, receive short term help in emergency rooms, and die earlier than those insured. One would think that such a large group would have a significant voice in NJ’s approach to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Alas!… no way.

There is the Republican approach which is to “repeal and replace Obamacare” and the Democratic approach which is to implement a NJ health exchange with consumer friendly rules and participate in Medicaid expansion. While political dogma will play a role and there are strong consumer advocacy groups, there is also a handful of high-powered industry lobbying organizations with money and access who will influence the outcome. Governor Christie, who boasts he is not shy about stating his position, has yet to enunciate with any clarity where he stands. Unfortunately, there is little time to meet the deadlines – the first of which is just two weeks after elections, to notify the federal government whether NJ plans to build its own healthcare insurance exchange.

Below are key players and oversimplified explanations of their positions, primarily on the type of health exchange needed for NJ. The players do not always publicize what they are seeking and may take different tacks as matters progress. The devil is always in the details.

NJ Association of Health Plans – NJAHP represents the six NJ health insurers. While members of this group like the idea of adding more patients to their rosters and they support a NJ health exchange, they want a “passive model” based on allowing all NJ insurers to participate under the minimum federal regulations, as opposed to facing additional state requirements which might be more consumer friendly – the “active model.” This disagreement was one of the reasons Governor Christie vetoed Senators Nia Gill’s (D-34) and Joseph Vitale’s (D-19) more progressive “active model” health exchange bill (S551).

Medical Society of New Jersey (doctors) – MSNJ did not support ACA legislation largely because “it did not address the sustainability of the Medicare and Medicaid programs and tort reform.” Doctors in NJ for Medicaid are reimbursed at a low rate of 37 percent of the federal Medicare rate, compared with a national average of 72 percent, and see little advantage in expanding Medicaid. More recently MSNJ has stated support for a NJ health exchange.

NJ Hospital Association – NJHA supports the goal of ACA to create health insurance exchanges. Hospitals receive monies from the State for charity care (this year $665 million) which they always consider insufficient. More patients with health insurance would decrease charity care and increase hospital revenue.

For other players, both pro and con, go beyond the fold.

Free Screenings of Gasland (Fracking Documentary) Preceed DRBC Vote On New Enviro Rules

Do you oppose flammable drinking water and widespread illness caused by environmental contamination? Do you like free movies?

As noted previously by Blue Jersey (here, here and here) the controversial natural gas extraction method called “fracking” (slang for “hydraulic fracturing”) has been trying to extend its craptacular tendrils in our general direction for a couple of years now. But on Monday 11/21, the Delaware River Basin Commission will vote on new rules that could pave the way for nearly 20,000 fracking wells to be built in the river basin.

Yeah, not good for fans of safe water and good health. So along with some local partners, environment and sustainability watchdog Food and Water Watch is sponsoring two screenings of the the HBO documentary Gasland, which is to fracking what Supersize Me is to fast food.  Not sure you understand the issue and it’s potentially devastating consequences? Or maybe you’re just cheap and need something to do this week. Either way. You can catch the New Brunswick screening today at 10 a.m., and the Princeton screening tomorrow at 7 p.m. Full details below the YouTubes.

When: Monday, Nov. 14 @ 9:10pm

Where: Rutgers Univ., Loree Hall, Room 20 (72 Lipman Drive) – parking available in Douglass Deck

Who: NJ Food & Water Watch, NJPIRG Student Chapters, Rutgers Univ. Student Assembly

When: Tuesday Nov. 15 @ 7pm

Where: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton, 50 Cherry Hill Road

Who: NJ Food & Water Watch, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton

Menendez defends new consumer protection agency

Senator Menendez was on the national stage yesterday standing up for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  See video here.

New Jersey PIRG was glad to see Senator Menendez’ working to confirm Richard Cordray as director.  The ex-Ohio Attorney General has a strong record on standing up for consumer rights.

The CFPB will provide consumer protection that New Jersey sorely needs.  With 8 percent of New Jersey mortgages in a foreclosure process, almost double the national average, we need an agency that will prevent mortgage services from charging illegal fees and enrolling customers in overpriced insurance.  The CFPB can do just that, but until a director is confirmed, the CFPB’s consumer protection powers will be limited.

Read NJPIRG’s report “10 Reasons We Need The CFPB Now”

Menendez is up against Wall Street, as well as the 44 Senators who have already sided against the public interest and pledged not to confirm any director unless there are sweeping rollbacks to its authority and structure.  

As banks resume foreclosure processes on thousands of New Jersey residents who would have benefited from the CFPB, we’re glad that Menendez is on the Banking Committee to play a role in this debate.

PIRG challenges governor on monetization

NJPIRG is trying to lend some sanity to the debate over the governor’s “monetization” plan by circulating a petition asking that the governor abide by six basic principles to prevent the kind of bad deals agreed to elsewhere. The group, on its Web site, offers this explanation:

We need to ensure that New Jersey citizens retain control of our Turnpike and Parkway for all future planning, management and development. We need to make sure that if a deal occurs, New Jerseyans get fair value for our roads instead of our budget crisis leading New Jersey to sell at a discount. The process of making a deal must be transparent and accountable. And above all, the people of New Jersey should have the final say in the Turnpike’s future safety standards. If a monetization deal can’t meet these conditions, embodied in our six principles, a deal must not be done.

I remain skeptical that a monetization plan can work, but if the state ultimately does move ahead, the PIRG petition offers a useful outline of the kinds of safeguards needed to keep New Jersey residents and drivers from being fleeced.

Exelon Running on Empty

While Exelon is being a blowhard to the BPU about “taking it or leaving it” I wonder if the BPU will take this story into consideration:

Exelon Corp.’s 619-megawatt Oyster Creek nuclear power station in New Jersey dipped to 53 percent of capacity by early Friday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in a report.

On Thursday, the unit was operating at 98 percent.

The Oyster Creek station, which entered service in 1969, is one of the oldest reactors in the nation. It is located in Forked River in Ocean County, about 60 miles east of Philadelphia.

One MW powers about 800 homes.

HMMM… My calculations makes that 262,456 homes without power (if your home was one of them please let us know in the comments).

So… if Exelon can’t operate Oyster Creek when it is most needed, why should they be able to operate the entire PSE&G Energy grid (of which I am a customer)?

There was another recent moment in time when a huge power company failed to supply a large area with Power for (ahem) 10 days or so.

Good folks at the BPU, if Exelon keeps bullying you around just remember Exelon = ConEd. If you ask me, allowing this takeover to take place would just increase your workload with future hearings about entire grids blacking out, and businesses shutting down, and rotten food in refrigerators.