New Jersey lawmakers cast their final vote Thursday to establish a state health insurance exchange program as required under Obamacare, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie says he won’t sign the bill into law until after the Nov. 6 election.
Democrats urged Christie to enforce the healthcare reforms passed two years ago, the Newark Star-Ledger
reports. But the governor says he won’t take any action to implement the exchange until after the election because Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal Obamacare if he wins the presidency.
Exchange supporters said delaying action on the program could cost much-needed time that state officials will need to file for federal assistance in setting up the exchange and enrolling people by October of next year.
If Christie waits until Election Day, he’ll have only 10 days to submit the exchange plans to meet a federal government deadline of Nov. 16, Ev Liebman, associate state director for advocacy of AARP, told the Star-Ledger.
"We are coming down to the wire when the state has to choose its path, and there hasn’t been an open and transparent process," Liebman said.
The state has only received a fraction of the federal aid needed to help create the online marketplace, compared to neighboring states. New York has already gotten $154 million, and Connecticut has received $115 million. New Jersey has so far received only $7.6 million.
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have already informed the Obama administration they intend to meet the deadline, said Joel Ario, a health care policy consultant and a former director of insurance exchanges at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"The rest of the states will be scrambling," he said.
Christie, meanwhile, has been gathering information form policy advisors on the exchange program even though he hasn't committed to backing it.
"I’ll make decisions when I have to," he said recently. "Ultimately, it’s an executive branch call."
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