Poll reports NJ residents positive about state healthcare coverage

<p>In a public poll of more than 1,200 New Jersey callers, a majority reported that they have positive feelings toward services covered under the state’s healthcare, but would like to see a decrease in monthly premium rates.&nbsp;</p>

In a public poll of more than 1,200 New Jersey callers, a majority reported that they have positive feelings toward services covered under the state’s healthcare, but would like to see a decrease in monthly premium rates. 

A majority of New Jersey residents feel positive about their healthcare coverage according to a recent "Health Matters" poll.

Conducted in partnership between the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute and the Rutgers Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, feedback taken from more than 1,200 live callers in November showed that the majority of residents feel positive about their healthcare coverage but would like to see less expensive monthly premium costs, according to the report.

“With all the debate over healthcare reform and the Affordable Care Act, we thought it was a good time to assess New Jerseyans’ opinions on their healthcare plans,” said Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.

Residents feel most satisfied with the doctors, hospitals and prescription drugs available through their healthcare plans, followed by the range of covered benefits and out-of-pocket costs — such as co-pays and deductibles, according to the report. 

Out of approximately 7 million adults living in New Jersey, 92 percent are covered by some form of health insurance. Approximately 560,000 residents — or 8 percent — are uninsured, according to the report.

Out of all the respondents, the poll shows that the most common insurance plan comes through a person’s employer, as more than half of residents are covered by one’s own or a spouses’ employer. 

It found that the next most common plan is through Medicare, with about 20 percent of respondents receiving coverage this way. The 10 percent of people who purchased a plan from an insurance company or marketplace came next, followed by coverage through Medicaid at 8 percent.

Compared to other plans, the poll showed that residents who purchase insurance themselves are consistently critical of aspects of their plan and the amount they pay through out-of-pocket expenses.  

Changes in federal policy caused Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey — the state’s largest insurer in the individual market — to announce premiums would increase between 16 percent to 28 percent this year, according to its website.

“The poll confirmed what we’re hearing on the ground — affordability and the value of available plans remain major issues among residents purchasing in certain markets,” said Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. “The ACA was effective in increasing coverage, but there’s more to be done to make that coverage affordable. This is especially true for small businesses and individuals above 400 percent of the federal poverty level who are purchasing insurance on their own and not receiving subsidies. They are feeling the brunt of a health care system’s costs that are ever increasing.”

The individual market covers about 240,000 New Jersey residents and it consists of those who are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.

AmeriHealth New Jersey — another big individual market insurer — said there would be an average rate increase of 17.1 percent “based on many uncertainties in the individual market,” according to an Asbury Park Press article.

Despite the rising costs in the individual market, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) has expressed the desire to tackle the healthcare issue in New Jersey when he signed an executive order in January to encourage more Affordable Care Act signups, according to a release from The Official Website for The State of New Jersey.

From the governor's transition team, there are specific healthcare priorities that the Murphy administration should focus on, according to the Report of the Healthcare Transition Advisory Committee. 

The transition report criticized the federal government’s actions of defunding cost-sharing subsidies, a cut in outreach and marketing funds and a shortened open enrollment period as a way to weaken the Affordable Care Act. 

“The federal tax legislation’s repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate will likely affect the individual marketplace and its ability to provide affordable coverage options, with premiums expected to rise in 2019 by 10 percent or more,” according to the transition report.

To combat this, the transition report shows that the Murphy administration should consider actions like increasing Affordable Care Act enrollment through a state-led consumer outreach campaign, or work with the state legislature to see if there is potential for “incentives” or “shared responsibility,” to encourage more people and small businesses to opt into health coverage.

The recent "Health Matters" poll is the fifth in the New Jersey "Health Matters Poll" series and is a collaboration between the two institutes to measure how New Jersey residents feel about current healthcare issues. 

“Anything that we produce we hope it goes out into the public dialogue and for policymakers to use it for the good of the state,” Koning said.

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