Governor Christie Calls on Horizon to Establish a Fund in NJ to Help Combat the Opioid Epidemic
On February 28, 2017, in the last budget address of his tenure, Governor Christie called on Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield (Horizon) to establish a permanent fund to assist the state’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic in New Jersey. Under Christie’s plan, Horizon would be required to establish and pay into a fund to help provide access to inpatient and out-patient drug rehabilitation treatment for low income individuals.
According to the Governor, as the sole insurer in the state enjoying not-for-profit status and a surplus of nearly $2.9 billion, Horizon not only shares in the financial obligation of caring for the state’s most vulnerable citizens but also has the ability to set aside excess surplus monies and other revenue to help fight the disease of opioid addiction. Christie argued that Horizon’s designation as a non-profit company, as well as his efforts to expand Medicaid, have contributed to the company’s continued success and propelled it to become the state’s largest insurer. In his address, Governor Christie emphasized that the immediate need for the fund was to assist in increasing patient access to rehabilitation services but also left open the possibility of using the fund for other purposes in the future.
In a swift response, Horizon argued that the Governor overstated the company’s earnings and cash reserves, noting that industry regulations require insurance providers to maintain significant reserves in order to cover unexpected claims for its 3.8 million members, 900,000 of which include Medicaid patients.