Fees on opioids, workers on Medicaid examined at budget hearing
At nearly $19 billion, the state Department of Human Services budget accounts nearly $1 of every $4 New Jersey state government will spend next year – including federal funds, transportation construction, unemployment benefits, independent authorities, public colleges. All of it.
Medicaid makes up a big part of that. And that’s part of the motivation behind one of the revenue-raisers Gov. Phil Murphy is seeking to add in his proposed state budget.
Murphy wants to levy a ‘corporate responsibility fee’ on nearly 1,000 companies with more than 50 workers receiving their health benefits through Medicaid. The Department of Human Services says it’s expected to raise $30 million – but could be hiked down the road.
Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said the proposed $150 per employee fee, which is projected to apply to around 200,000 workers, is designed to encourage employers to provide health coverage and could be increased in future years.
“We looked at what some other states have done. We also looked at a starting point as part of that,” Johnson said.
Johnson says each person in the Medicaid program costs the state around $2,500. The balance is paid for by the federal government.
“We think it’s important that our Medicaid program, which is a substantial portion of our state budget, has the support that it needs to be able to function appropriately and that we’re paying for people who need to be on the program,” she said.
Assemblyman John DiMaio, R-Warren, said the fee is a fine on businesses, adding to a series of costs added by the state under Murphy.
“The state of New Jersey is annually ranked the worst state for business, which for some reason hasn’t given the governor pause with his anti-business policies,” DiMaio said.
The proposed state budget also anticipates $21.5 million from a new assessment on opioid manufacturers and distributors, though the details of how it would be assessed remain scarce.
Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R-Union, said the fee could discourage manufacturers of generic opioids, pushing patients with a legitimate need for opioids to even higher-cost name brands.
“I don’t see any way how those fees are not going to be passed on to the patients. There’s never been a tax by manufacturers that hasn’t been,” Munoz said.
Johnson said the state is also trying to engage in education and awareness about pain-treatment alternatives.
“Some of this is about not starting on opioids if you don’t have to,” Johnson said.