TRENTON  — Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield said Wednesday that it will use more than $150 million to benefit its members as a result of changes to the tax laws.

Horizon, a not-for-profit corporation, had been paying the alternative minimum tax since 1986. That tax was eliminated under the 2017 federal tax overhaul, meaning the company is expecting refunds through 2022. The $150 million is just the first step in the process of using more than $500 million it expects to get refunded over the next five years.

"Horizon is entirely focused on serving our 3.8 million members. In keeping with our long-standing mission to operate for the benefit of our customers, this plan seeks to provide to them this year, the most direct way possible, $150 million in relief," CEO Kevin P. Conlin said. "Members will also benefit from the substantial investments this plan makes to expand access to care, improve health care quality and lower costs."

Horizon says it's working with the Department of Banking and Insurance to determine how to use the funds this year.

The company also plans to invest $125 million over five years on programs to connect people to mental health and substance abuse services.

Last year the company found itself at the center of the state's government shutdown. As part of the adopted budget, the state was not allowed to use money from Horizon's reserves for programs that would help fight the opioid epidemic. Rather, the money in the reserves would be used to help limit future premium increases.

Gov. Phil Murphy applauded Tuesday's announcement, commending the company for "reinvesting these profits into New Jersey." He said Horizon is "setting the bar for how corporations can responsibly reinvest in our communities."

New Jersey Business & Industry Association President and CEO Michele Siekerka called Horizon a "leading and shining example of the strong corporate citizenship we have in the state of New Jersey."

"With this action, Horizon is not only sharing its returns to its large customer base, it is also making a strong investment in the health of our citizens and the soundness of New Jersey's economy," Siekerka said.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

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