TRENTON — New Jersey will move to a state-based health care exchange starting in 2021 as a result of an executive order signed Friday by Gov. Phil Murphy.

The Democratic governor made the announcement at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston on the 9th anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. He said offering access to high quality, affordable health care is one of society's greatest responsibilities and a "basic right."

The move offers protection against what Murphy called the "sabotage" of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, by Republicans and the Trump administration.

"A true New Jersey exchange will be a strong measure of independence at a time when the federal administration continues to undermine and weaken the marketplace in their misguided efforts to dismantle and weaken the Affordable Care Act," Murphy said, adding the plan puts "destiny in our own hands."

Murphy said the state has already been able to bring down the cost of health care by establishing a reinsurance program, implementing a requirement to have coverage and taking over plan management of the exchange in New Jersey.

Murphy hopes the state exchange clears federal regulatory requirements and will be available by the fall 2020 enrollment period for coverage effective in 2021.

The exchange will give the state more control over enrollment periods and design plans that are better tailored to what Murphy called the unique needs of New Jerseyans. The state would have complete control of the program from the website to support for individuals at small businesses purchasing plans.

Murphy said the Legislature will vote on a package of bills to protect what he called essential parts of the ACA, including protections for no cost preventative care, prohibiting exclusions for pre-existing conditions, allowing children to stay on their parent's plans to age 26 and protecting mental health, substance abuse and maternity care as "essential health benefits."

"We also must ensure that the principles which have underpinned all of our efforts to date are not undone by a future Congress or a future state administration which might be hostile to our efforts to safeguard affordable care," Murphy said.

The industry group that represents the state's hospital's "applauded" Murphy's move.

“The proposals for minimum requirements for insurance policies are very important. We’ve seen a rise in plans that require more cost-sharing by the consumer, often leading to surprise medical bills for the patient," New Jersey Hospitals Association President and CEO Kathy Bennett said.

"Covering more people with health insurance and making sure that coverage is adequate for their medical needs is essential to improve health status and begin addressing the affordability concerns in healthcare today.”

The Medical Society of New Jersey also supports the reforms that include allowing coverage of children to age 26, covering pre-existing conditions and eliminating annual and lifetime limits.

Maura Collinsgru, health care program director of New Jersey Citizen Action, praised Murphy's actions.

"Once again, New Jersey has taken the lead in protecting its residents and responding to the disruptive policies coming out of Washington. We applaud Governor Murphy for championing these initiatives on the day before the ACA’s 9th anniversary," she said in a statement.

Republican legislative leaders did not immediately react to the announcement early Friday afternoon.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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