Christie keeps up push for Horizon profits
JERSEY CITY — Gov. Chris Christie says he has submitted legislation requiring the state's largest health insurer to use its surplus to expand coverage.
During a speech to the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey on Thursday, Christie accused Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of "profiteering on taxpayer money and profiteering on the poor" with Medicaid money that was available after his administration expanded Medicaid.
The governor said that Horizon is no longer the "insurer of last resort" as it was originally intended, but a "monopolistic insurance company" with highly paid executives with luxurious perks, and a payroll packed with "retired politicians and retired political operatives."
"Horizon is practically the only game in town and they know it. Back in the old days, we used to call that a monopoly. Now, I also think about the outrageous and offensive executive salaries that are being paid at a nonprofit," Christie said.
The measure would require Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield to use its surplus to provide access to cancer patients, veterans, and those with substance abuse disorders.
"This bill would require salary and bonus information for its executives and lobbyists to be placed online for all the public to see," Christie said of the bill, which also proposes expanding Horizon's board of directors from 11 members to 19, with four members appointed by the legislature.
The Department of Banking and Insurance would also gain expanded power to get more information from Horizon on how it’s meeting its nonprofit mission.
"If they’re meeting their mission, they have nothing to fear," Christie said.
The proposal comes after Christie, in his budget speech, said that he wanted Horizon to voluntarily pay into the fund; the company has refused, saying its reserve doesn’t represent excess profits, as Christie calls it.
Horizon spokesman Kevin McArdle, in a statement, said the governor "is attacking the company for protecting our policyholders from a $300 million tax hike. Not once in the prior seven years has the Governor raised any concern about Horizon’s publicly filed financial information, including executive compensation. Packing Horizon’s Board with political appointees, jeopardizing the security of health insurance and taxing our 3.8 million members is wrong."
Christie hinted at legislation during the March edition of Ask the Governor.
"I find it hard to believe that Democratic legislators are going to say no to the idea that a company like Horizon, which is a nonprofit, set up for the benefit of the people of New Jersey, that they won’t take their excess profits, just a piece of their excess profits, and use them to help poor people who are drug-addicted,” Christie said. “I can’t believe the Democrats won’t support that."
The Associated Press and Michael Symons contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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