Tag Archive: Robert Wood Johnson

End the Insurance Monopolies: Repeal McCarran-Ferguson

This was posted last Friday, but just before two big pieces of news broke, Sen. Lautenberg’s cancer diagnosis and Bill Baroni’s impending exit from the state senate. But it’s absolutely worth time up on the frontpage. Cross posted at Daily Kos where it got more than 100 comments, and 222 hits for the Tip Jar.              – promoted by Rosi

Cross Posted on Daily Kos

On Wednesday I headed over to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick to take part in a discussion with doctors, hospital administrators, and consumer groups about repealing the McCarran-Ferguson Act – a law giving health insurers anti-trust exemptions.  

My position has always been that insurance companies shouldn’t be left to their own rules – nor their own devices. For the past 65 years, the health insurance industry has been operating with special immunity from anti-trust laws. While this exemption may contribute to their profit margins, it’s the patients and doctors who are ultimately forced to pay the price. Enough is enough. In Congress, I’m proud to say that Democrats will soon introduce the Health Insurance Industry Anti-Trust Enforcement Act – to finally ban price fixing, bid rigging and market collusion, once and for all.

Right now, insurance companies continue to rake in record profits, while consumer costs are skyrocketing.  Most states remain dominated by a small number of competing insurance firms.  Here in New Jersey, just two companies control 60% of the market.  Even when states pass laws preventing the exemption, most insurance companies still simply continue to ignore them by citing federal law.  We must stop this double-standard and give patients a fair choice.  By creating more competition, we will lower prices and increase access to medical treatments that are often denied because they are not profitable for insurance companies to cover.

Healthcare should be about putting people first, not profits.  We must promote a fair playing field in the insurance industry and make certain they operate under the same rules as every other sector.  The sentiment I heard from leading voices in the medical profession was that we need to shine a light on the practices used to set rates.  Currently, federal regulators do not have the power to  investigate anti-competitive tactics used by the industry to control the market, leaving patients and consumers vulnerable to exploitation at the hands of insurance companies and big business.

As President Obama’s health care summit with Congressional leaders approaches, we must not forget the reasons why we began the process of reforming health care in the first place. We must give a voice to those patients being denied much-needed care due to an obsession with profits on the part of fat cat insurance executives.

The profit driven mindset has severe consequences, such as private practitioners refusing to provide general care procedures like vaccinations just because insurance companies don’t cover them.  This is unacceptable and needs to stop. I will continue to work with leaders and medical experts to give patients the care they need and deserve.

Fair competition in the marketplace will keep the industry honest. Even more importantly, it will cut down on medical costs for patients and their families. Such reform all begins with breaking up the insurance monopolies by repealing McCarran-Ferguson.

Raising Awareness of Heart Disease

Today marks the first day of Heart Disease Awareness Month.  Often those who serve in elected office mark such events with proclamations or press releases. But for me, this isn’t just a simple policy issue. To me, this is personal, as both of my parents suffered from cardiovascular disease.

My father passed away from a heart attack when he was only 51 years old. I was a 19-year old freshman at Montclair State University at the time. The suddenness and timing of his death forced me to grow up very quickly and defined who I became as an adult.  Then, a decade ago, my mother suffered a stroke. This inspired me to write New Jersey’s Stroke Centers Law requiring designation of hospitals as primary or comprehensive stroke centers.  

Here in the United States, heart disease is the number one killer of women.  The statistics are simply staggering, and we need to take every level of precaution. The American Heart Association is working to change the perception that heart disease primarily affects men and has set a near-term goal of reducing incidents by 25% in women over the course this year.

There are a number of ways to pitch-in during the AHA’s Go Red for Women campaign.  This Friday, February 5th, I hope you’ll join me – and thousands of others all across the country – by wearing the color red.  Together, we can raise awareness of heart disease and show solidarity with the millions of families who have been affected.

In the legislature, I will continue doing my part to combat heart disease. I was a proud sponsor of laws extending a business tax credit to provide employees with benefits promoting physical fitness and well-being.  However, in addition to a public policy agenda that promotes awareness and prevention, each of us can make healthier lifestyle choices that reduce the risk of heart disease – lowering health care costs and, even more importantly, saving lives in the process.

Also, while cigarettes are legal and adults have the right choose whether they want to smoke, I firmly believe they don’t have a right to impose their unhealthy habit upon the non-smoking public. In 2005, I sponsored the law banning smoking in college and university dormitories. Some of you might already know that I am now pushing for legislation banning smoking in New Jersey parks and beaches.  These public areas are paid for by taxpayer dollars and should be available everyone to safely enjoy without worrying about the effects of secondhand smoke. Even slight exposure has been found to pose a serious health risk.  

On Friday I’ll be in New Brunswick (wearing red) at Robert Wood Johnson hospital for a special event promoting heart health and awareness.  If you’re able to make it, I hope to see some of you there.