Christie, Horizon BCBS bicker over allocations for charity programs

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has called for more funding from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield for charity programs based on the company’s financials, but Horizon has resisted, saying the governor overstated its cash reserves and already supports healthcare programs for vulnerable residents.

In his final budget address on Tuesday, Christie called for hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding to help disabled adults stay in their homes, expand graduate medical education and build on his ongoing work to improve addiction services, among other healthcare-related priorities.

But one of the most newsworthy notions Christie championed in his speech was not actually factored into the $35.5 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2018: a plea for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurance provider, to create a charitable fund that could be used to help pay for drug treatment for those without health coverage or other services for vulnerable residents. The nonprofit has had a historic role caring for the New Jersey’s poor citizens, but in recent years the company has amassed billions in surplus and annual revenues, he said, insisting it should do more to help offset the state’s escalating healthcare costs.

“I am confident Horizon will embrace this opportunity and partner with us to establish this permanent, sustainable fund,” Christie said, prompting laughter from the crowd packed into the State House Assembly chamber. “They will not turn their back on the people of New Jersey who pay their salaries and, as the people’s representatives, we will partner with them to make sure it happens by June 30,” he added.

Horizon officials shot back within the hour, insisting Christie had overstated the company’s earnings and cash reserves and highlighting ways in which it supports healthcare programs for the state’s most vulnerable residents. In addition, industry regulations require insurance providers to maintain significant reserves in order to cover unexpected claims, the company said, adding that the $2.4 billion Horizon had in reserve at the end of 2016 is entirely appropriate, given the company’s size and costs. Horizon covers some 3.8 million Garden State residents, including 900,000 Medicaid patients; it is one of two companies that issues Medicaid plans in the state.

Read the full story at NJ Spotlight: Christie Seeks ‘Charity’ from Insurance Company to Bolster Healthcare for Poor – NJ Spotlight

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