TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Christie says he won’t rush into setting up a New Jersey health insurance exchange just because the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld key parts of President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul.
He said the state should wait until at least November’s election before taking steps to comply with the law.
“If (Republican presidential candidate) Mitt Romney’s elected in the election, there won’t be any more Obamacare,” Christie said Thursday on the “Ask the Governor” show on New Jersey 101.5 FM.
But Christie added that he would comply with any hard deadlines set forth in the law.
Like many other Republican leaders, Christie was disappointed with Thursday’s ruling on one of the Democratic president’s key achievements.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is disappointing, and I still believe this is the wrong approach for the people of New Jersey who should be able to make their own judgments about health care,” Christie said in a statement. “Most importantly, the Supreme Court is confirming what we knew all along about this law — it is a tax on middle-class Americans.”
While Christie was saying it made sense to wait before taking action, other officials wanted to forge ahead.
Democratic lawmakers announced plans to reintroduce a bill that Christie vetoed to set up the insurance exchange that would allow individuals to buy plans.
Lawmakers passed a similar bill, but Christie vetoed it in May, saying at the time, “I intend to fully oversee New Jersey’s compliance in a responsible and cost-effective manner should its constitutionality ultimately be upheld by the Supreme Court,” and said his administration was working on how to do so.
Meanwhile, some Republican lawmakers used the ruling as a chance to renew their push for an amendment to the state constitution to prohibit New Jersey from following any federal law that compels anyone to obtain health insurance or any employer to provide it.
“This is a very sad day for Americans,” Sen. Steve Oroho, a Republican from Franklin Borough in Sussex County who is sponsoring the amendment.
One place where the court’s ruling Thursday went against Obama was in how it deals with a planned expansion of Medicaid, the joint state-federal health insurance program for low-income people.
According to the ruling, states would not lose entire their subsidies if they refused to expand eligibility to anyone making more than 133 percent of the federal poverty limit, or $30,660 for a family of four. That gives states latitude not to expand those programs.
While Christie called other elements of the court’s decision “screwy,” he applauded that part of the ruling.
Sen. Joseph Vitale, a Democrat from Woodbridge, said he would like to see New Jersey lower the threshold for eligibility for Medicaid. Currently, families with children can qualify for subsidized health care if they make less than 350 percent of the poverty rate.
Currently, people without children have much lower thresholds to qualify.
Vitale said that if Medicaid does not expand in the state, it would push more people into the insurance exchange.
Assemblyman Herb Conaway, a Democrat from Delanco, said it’s time for lawmakers to pass the exchange soon.
“It’s time to get back to work on implementing the health insurance exchange component so that it is best suited to meet the unique needs of New Jersey and its 9 million residents,” Conaway said. “The exchange is the most significant component in ensuring that individuals have access to a health plan they can afford.”