NJ governor moves for more control over profits of state's largest payer

Dive Brief:

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is seeking more state oversight of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey after the nonprofit insurer reportedly declined to add $300 million to the state addition-treatment fund in February, reported the Wall Street Journal.

  • The governor proposed the state’s Department of Banking and Insurance have more control over Horizon’s finances, add state-appointed members to the company’s board and require the company disclose executive and lobbyist salaries and bonuses.

  • Christie also asked that the insurer deposit profits that exceed reserves to remain in good standing with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association into a revolving account for health services for low-income residents.

Dive Insight:

Christie, whose term is up in January and who ran an unsuccessful campaign for president last year, is known for taking on special interests. What’s different about this fight is he’s suggesting more governmental oversight over a big business in New Jersey.

It's baffling to political watchers why Christie would buck his party's stance against interfering in businesses, but he is known for standing his ground. Democratic Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver said in a statement that Christie should instead put his energy into saving the Affordable Care Act. "The governor's proposed action actually sets a precedent," she said. "Republicans always lament governmental overreach into the private sector, and yet here's the governor proposing to do just that." 

While Christie accused the payer's executives of spending too much on lobbying and beach homes for themselves, the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey issued a press release last week promoting its work on opioid addiction.

The f promoted its $250,000 grant to the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, which will result in a series of 17 “Knock Out Opioid Abuse” open forums about prevention and best practices for those addicted. The forums will target “communities heavily impacted” by the opioid crisis.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey said it has paid more than $315 million in claims related to substance abuse, including $150.6 million in claims in 2016. The payer said $54.2 million of those claims went to treat opioid addiction.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is the state’s largest health insurance company and covers 3.8 million people. It reported $12.2 billion in revenue last year.

Filed Under: Payer Policy & Regulation
Top image credit: Walter Burns