RED BANK — New Jersey's individual health insurance market will see rates go down by an average of 9.3 percent next year, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday.

Murphy announced the change at an event at Hackensack Meridian Health Riverview Medical Center and attributed the drop to New Jersey's new statewide individual health insurance mandate.

Murphy, a Democrat who was elected last year after promising to enact a progressive agenda, cast the mandate as part of a broader effort to expand health care's reach.

"Our work is based on the core belief that health care is a right - not a privilege," Murphy said.

New Jersey enacted the mandate this year in May in response to congressional Republicans' repeal of the requirement contained in the Affordable Care Act — frequently called Obamacare — in last year's tax bill.

The lower rate for next year's individual market is a course change from recent years when rates in the market went up.

The state's Department of Banking and Insurance says rates went up by 23.3 percent this year in the individual market and by 8.7 percent in 2017.

New Jersey's individual health insurance market had about 330,000 people in it in the first quarter of this year.

More broadly, roughly 800,000 have insurance through the ACA law and the expansion of Medicaid.

Under the state mandate, residents face a penalty of 2.5 percent of income or $695 per taxpayer, whichever is greater. A family's maximum penalty is $2,085.

Murphy signed the law after promising to push back against GOP attempts to weaken or repeal former President Barack Obama's landmark legislation.

A handful of other states were considering similar measures. Massachusetts already has a mandate in place.

The administration said that had the state not acted to establish a mandate rates would have risen.

Carriers indicated to the state that residents would have seen premium rates on the individual market go up by 12.6 percent, according to Murphy's office.

Instead, carriers asked a 5.8 percent average increase in premium rates, but federal approval in August of a waiver aimed at lowering rates resulted in the 9.3 percent decrease for 2019.

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