A Democratic assemblyman is introducing legislation that would have New Jersey establish a single-payer healthcare system, the first in the United States.

The plan would surely be fought by private health insurers, and Gov. Chris Christie has criticized the concept in the past. But Assemblyman Reed Gusciora sees the proposal as kicking off a conversation – one that he hopes gets some attention in the 2017 gubernatorial race.

“This is a start. It’s just an idea that I am pursuing, and let the discussions begin,” said Gusciora, D-Mercer.

Gusciora said the inspiration from the plan comes from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ advocacy for a federal single-payer system, and he unveiled it hours before Sanders addressed the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on the DNC’s opening night.

“It’s something that people have been talking of from Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders, that insurance should be more affordable and there should be more universal access to health care in the United States. And I think people will start to think whether this is the way to go,” Gusciora said.

(To clarify: Trump does not support a single-payer system though has criticized the current system.)

“Cut out the middle man. We now go through insurance companies, but people complain that health care costs still increase and that there’s no real competition,” Gusciora said. “It would be the ultimate Medicare expansion, but more universally. There’s not age restriction.”

The federal Affordable Care Act lets states set up healthcare exchanges through which residents can obtain health coverage. New Jersey hasn’t set up a system; instead, the federal government oversees the marketplace in the state, as it does in 26 other states.

That state-based program could be a single-payer system, though no states have done that. Vermont considered it, then abandoned the plan because of the tax impact on small businesses.

The state government would essentially become a health insurer. Gusciora said it would be able to negotiate lower costs with hospitals because of how many people it represents. It would also not be motivated by profits, another big cost-saving, he said.

“It would be much based on like the Canadian system or the British system, which people complain about but at the end of the day it offers universal appeal, lowers cost and is a more realistic way of offering insurance,” Gusciora said.

“Europeans still love their health plan, and I think the United States should start looking in that direction,” he said.

The Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010. Most of its major provisions were phased in by 2014.

A Census Bureau report published last September found that the number of New Jerseyans without health insurance had dropped by 195,000, from 13.2 percent of the population in 2013 to 10.9 percent in 2014. That measured 965,000 residents in the state without health coverage.

A Gallup Poll done last summer found the percentage of New Jerseyans without health insurance dropped from around 15 percent in 2013 to less than 10 percent in the first half of 2015.

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