The line of organizations offering to help explain the details of the Affordable Care Act, approaching its first open enrollment period beginning Tuesday, October 1, keeps growing.
As reported in U.S. 1’s September 4 edition, the Princeton Chamber of Commerce will hold its conference, featuring CEOs of the area’s major medical centers, on Tuesday, September 24, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Conference Center at Mercer County Community College. The keynotes will be Al Titone, district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s New Jersey office, and Dennis E. Gonzalez, deputy regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Region II. Go to www.princetonchamber.org for registration information.
Also that day the Employers Association of New Jersey will begin a series of workshops throughout the state aimed at helping employers understand the complex regulations and the market uncertainties of the new law. While the large employer penalty has been pushed back to 2015, the EANJ notes that employers, regardless of size, “are required to provide detailed information to all employees. Employers are expected to field questions from employees and may choose to provide assistance directly or make a referral to a culturally-competent navigator. Many employees will be eligible to receive a subsidy to purchase healthcare insurance. They will have legal remedies for employer interference or retaliation.”
Leading the presentations will be EANJ executive director John Sarno and representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Among the topics covered:
The mechanics of the Health Insurance Marketplace Health insurance standards — affordability, essential benefits, etc.; employer notice requirement; employee health plan choices; the role of the navigator; subsidy eligibility; and employee protections and legal remedies.
The EANJ seminars will be offered Tuesday, September 24, at ALOFT, 585 Fellowship Road, Mount Laurel; Thursday, October 3, at Preferred Behavioral in Lakewood; Wednesday, October 23, at the Saddle Brook Marriott; Thursday, October 24, at Miele, 9 Independence Way, Princeton; and Wednesday, November 6, at EANJ in Livingston. Register at www.eanj.org. Fee: $35.
According to an EANJ press release Sarno has been working on healthcare reform since 2008, even before the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was passed. During the legislative process that enacted it and through the Supreme Court decision that upheld it, Sarno taught healthcare law and policy at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “It was a once in a lifetime experience for the students and me. In our own way, we were part of the history being made,” he says. Through the classroom discussions, he “realized the federal health reforms would forever change the way Americans live and work.”
The EANJ also adjusted its mission to get “out in front of the complex regulations and the market uncertainties.” Says Sarno: “I conferred with a lot experts and had numerous discussions with the EANJ board of directors. We are still on a learning curve.”
The EANJ in recent years has convened dozens of employer healthcare meetings, provided testimony at state and federal legislative hearings, moderated numerous panels and discussions, secured a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to promote workplace wellness and, together with Rutgers University, launched a statewide workplace wellness campaign funded by the New Jersey Department of Health.
In 2011 the employers organization capitalized a self-insured healthcare trust — the Affiliated Physicians & Employers Health Plan — so that small and mid-sized employers can fund health care coverage like big corporations. More information on that plan can be found at www.eanj.org/content/mewa/.
Under the ACA, the actual plans will start January 1. As the EANJ statement notes, “most people will need to be insured in 2014 or pay a penalty. Tax credits may help individuals who are up to 400 percent of the poverty line. For some, it will be the first time they have health insurance.”
An estimated 610,000 New Jerseyans will be eligible for premium tax credits, of which about 511,000 will be in families with a worker who is employed either full or part-time. A family of four that earns $50,000 a year could get a tax-credit subsidy of up to $6,504.
The EANJ press release notes that “the federal government has created New Jersey’s online marketplace at Governor Chris Christie’s request, after he chose not to have the state take the lead. But before Christie made that decision, his administration received $8.8 million in grants for researching and planning a health exchange, and $7.6 million of those federal funds remain unspent.
“Recently, Christie vetoed a bill that would have authorized the Banking and Insurance Department to provide public outreach and direct the uninsured to the Marketplace.”
Asked about the efforts of certain politicians and business groups to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Sarno declined to enter the fray: “I’m an executive, lawyer and professor. I’m not a politician. I try to work with a sense of purpose and innovation.”