Saying the federal government hasn't done enough to provide concrete parameters for establishing health insurance exchange, Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday vetoed state legislation that would have created a state-run HIX in New Jersey.
States have until Fri., Dec. 14, to declare whether they will establish a state-run HIX to be active by October 2013. States that do not opt to run their own exchange will instead cede control of their HIX to the federally facilitated exchange (FFE) at least initially.
In a press release, Christie said the veto decision wasn't so much a protest against the exchanges per se, as has been the case with a number of Republican governors who have seen non-compliance with building a state-run HIX as one of their remaining lines of protest against the Affordable Care Act. Rather, Christie's stance is there simply hasn't been enough information from the federal government about the exact structural requirements of any of the three HIX options available to states – state-run, FFE, or state-federal partnered exchange.
"We will comply with the Affordable Care Act, but only in the most efficient and cost effective way for New Jersey taxpayers," said Christie in a statement detailing his veto. "Such an important decision as how to best move forward for New Jerseyans can only be understood and reasonably made when fairly and fully compared to the overall value of the other options. Until the federal government gives us all the necessary information, any other action than this would be fiscally irresponsible."
But Democratic New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr., wasn't buying Gov. Christie's explanation of the veto, and even tried to appeal to conservative ideals of preserving states' rights.
"The decision by Governor Christie to veto our state's healthcare exchange squandered New Jersey's right to self determination and has put the state in a position where we can no longer specify a plan that fits our needs," Pallone said in statement released to the press. "Governor Christie had ample time, opportunity and resources to create a viable plan for New Jersey to have fully functioning exchanges up and running in the time prescribe by the law, but instead he chose a path that lessens our home-grown influence over our healthcare."
Those critical of the veto contend that Christie is hiding behind the federal government's lack of guidance on the structure and operation of the exchanges to mask his broader opposition to the exchanges themselves.
"(Christie) is philosophically opposed to it, he's said that. He doesn't think this is a good idea, and quite frankly, he has no guarantee that this thing is going to work. So why would he want his own state entity to be worried about something and trying to make it work? Let the feds worry about it," said Amy Mansue, president and CEO of Children's Specialized Hospital, as reported by NJBIZ.
This is the second time Christie has vetoed legislation to set up a state-run HIX. He also vetoed a nearly identical measure in May saying at the time that he wanted to wait for the June Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, which could have eliminated that individual mandate requiring all residents to have health insurance.