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NJHA: Public Deserves Full Disclosure of Horizon Conversion Plan

Friday, September 12, 2008 General News J E 4
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PRINCETON, N.J., Sept. 11 The New Jersey Hospital Association today called for greater transparency of Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield's application to become a for-profit company.



"There is far too much at stake for the people of New Jersey to have this process proceed with key information shielded from the public," said NJHA President and CEO Betsy Ryan. "New Jersey residents are rightfully concerned about the high cost of health insurance and access to coverage. They deserve a full and open airing of this important issue."



NJHA's appeal comes after its request for more information, made under the state's Open Public Records Act, was denied Monday by the state Attorney General's office. The state's release of additional information yesterday shed little light on critical business analyses, financial projections and other information that would help determine whether the conversion plan truly is in the public interest. These critical documents - and much more - were made publicly available in other states where conversions were proposed, including Maryland, Washington and Kansas. Much of the information released yesterday by the Department of Banking and Insurance has been available on the Horizon Web site.



Horizon is the state's largest insurer, covering 46 percent of New Jersey's insured residents - including the State of New Jersey's workforce. If the state approves its request to switch from a nonprofit to for-profit company, the state stands to benefit from the interest dollars generated by $1 billion or more in public assets that would be placed in a public trust. Annual interest from those dollars could be used to fund state programs, presumably for healthcare.



However, said Ryan, such a conversion plan also holds tremendous implications for the public. Horizon is New Jersey's insurer of last resort and covers a great deal of New Jersey's Medicaid beneficiaries. Key questions demand answers, she said, including whether premiums would increase to satisfy the expectations of share holders, whether the new for-profit company would still cover Medicaid patients and whether the quality of the coverage would suffer under a for-profit company.



Specifically, NJHA sought from the state any additional information, data, reports, analyses and documents that the insurer has filed with the Department of Banking and Insurance and Attorney General's office to justify its conversion request. On Monday, the Attorney General denied the request, saying the documents sought are not considered public records.



"Is a for-profit Horizon good for New Jersey? No one knows at this point," said Ryan. "But the public certainly should have the right to review all the key information and feel confident that its interests are being protected. So far, that's not happening."



"We urge Horizon's executives and state leaders charged with reviewing the application to let the sun shine on this process and allow the public full access to the information that may decide the future of their health insurance coverage."





SOURCE New Jersey Hospital Association
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