The state of New Jersey has just over six months to finalize plans for a health insurance exchange. The deadline concerns a federal grant that would help the state make progress toward the new insurance system. The grant, worth $5 million, would be used to hire new staff that will maintain the upcoming virtual insurance marketplace. It would also help the state purchase new equipment needed to operate the system and would fund marketing efforts to promote the exchange program. If New Jersey misses the deadline, it may not be able to build an exchange by the federally established deadline of 2014.
Legislators have been debating over the value of an exchange program since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. Some lawmakers claimed that the exchange was a waste of time as it was not yet certain whether the federal law is constitutional. Recently, however, many lawmakers have changed their tune, believing that the exchange could help those consumers that have trouble affording much needed health insurance coverage.
The state’s insurance exchange still faces many legislative challenges. The state must still determine how the exchange will be operated and what benefit packages it will bring to consumers. Exactly how the state will spend grant money is still up for debate as well. Given that the system will be completely electronic, some legislators have expressed concerns with hiring new employees that may not be necessary for the program.