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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Horizon Bill Echoes Christie's Arm-Twisting As Prosecutor

New Jersey governor Chris Christie is ready to shut down state government because he and legislators cannot agree on a state budget, and a sticking point is a horrible Christie proposal to raid the reserves of the state's dominant health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, under certain conditions (such as the reserve being too high) to shift funds to his new pet project of combating opioid addiction.

The problem is that those reserves represent customer payments, and not one penny would go back to them. It's the functional equivalent of the IRS keeping your tax refund and giving it to a tax commissioner's favorite charity.

Now, if the Horizon proposal doesn't pass Friday, Christie and some Democratic allies have threatened to shut down state government. That's because Friday is the last day of the preceding fiscal year and a budget for the new year starting July 1 has not been passed by the legislature.

Some Democrats are going so far as to reportedly seek to remove current Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto from that role, because Prieto, a strong opponent of the Horizon reserves proposal, refuses to allow that proposal to come up for a vote in the State Assembly.

How bad is this attempt to seize over $300 million in excess Horizon premiums? What's the effect of this?

If there are reserves, it is because either customers have paid too much or Horizon has not provided enough care. The proposal would not fix either problem. Customer premiums get shifted under Christe's proposal, not to their own healthcare, but to drug addicts.

Or as a cynic might point out, into the pockets of those few and connected health care providers who are in the drug treatment industry.

If you have health insurance through Horizon and that company has excessive reserves -- which come entirely from what you pay in premiums -- you won't get a refund or credit. Not one dime.

You won't get an expanded network.

You won't get more choice. Remember, if you're on an exchange (and Horizon is one of only two insurers participating on the Obamacare exchange!) you have no choice but to get covered on these exchanges, at whatever cost the insurer sets.

Again, if you pay too much, Christie's proposal would mean your overpayment gets shifted elsewhere.

Not refunded.

Christie has done this arm twisting of businesses to benefit friends and cronies before, however. When he was United States Attorney in the last decade, he prosecuted some companies and secured settlements that called for the companies to hire special monitors (law firms of friends of his) or make large contributions to pet causes such as to Seton Hall Law School. That is, Christie's alma mater.

This is how elected officials score brownie points.

You get the bill.

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