Awaiting U.S. top court ruling on insurance subsidies, NJ lawmaker urges contingency plan

     State Sen. Nia Gill is calling for a backup plan for New Jersey if ACA subsidies are struck down. (AP file photo)

    State Sen. Nia Gill is calling for a backup plan for New Jersey if ACA subsidies are struck down. (AP file photo)

    A New Jersey lawmaker is encouraging the state to consider a contingency plan — similar to what’s in place in neighboring Pennsylvania and Delaware — in the event the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies in states with federally run marketplaces.

    A decision on the case, King v. Burwell, is expected soon.

    More than 150,000 people in New Jersey qualify for financial discounts on health insurance purchased through the federal marketplace. Those discounts, or subsidies, are in jeopardy if the Supreme Court decides that they’re available only in states that run their own marketplaces.

    State Sen. Nia Gill, D-Essex, who chairs the state’s Task Force on Health Exchange Implementation, issued a memo Friday calling on New Jersey to consider all options, including creation of a state-based marketplace.

    It’s a proposal similar to contingency plans in place in Pennsylvania and Delaware that were recently approved by the federal government. Under such a model, the state would gain more regulatory authority but would still use the existing federal technology system and healthcare.gov.

    “It’s a viable alternative,” said Gill. “Those governors [in Pennsylvania and Delaware] have elected to say, ‘We’re not going to engage in politics over people. We are going to make sure that people have what they need, and that is affordable, accessible health care.'”

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was not available for comment, has said that if the court strikes down the federal subsidies, Congress should fix the situation.

    Christie, a Republican, has twice vetoed bills that would create a standalone, state-run marketplace. An override would have required support from at least two-thirds of the Assembly and the Senate, something that has never happened during Christie’s tenure.

    Gill, who cautioned that any proposed alternative is just that, said any decision moving forward hinges on how the Supreme Court rules.

    “We always understand that the devil is in the details,” she said. “Once the opinion is rendered, then we could say with more specificity how the program should be structured and whether we need to continue in a particular manner or not.”

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