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Christie Vetoes Obamacare Health Insurance Exchange in New Jersey

Conservatives are pleased, but one Democratic critic thinks Christie's veto is just to "burnish his conservative credentials" for a possible VP run with Mitt Romney.

After months of mulling his options, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed state legislation Thursday that would have in New Jersey, a fundamental step in implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—known coloquially as "Obamacare"—in the state .

Christie had until Thursday, May 10, to make a decision on Assembly Bill #2171, passed by the state Legislature in March, or the bill would have become law, with or without his signature.

Christie said that because the U.S. Supreme Court decided to take on issue in March, just 10 days after the New Jersey Assembly passed the health exchange bill, the Affordable Care Act "might not survive [legal] scrutiny."

"Because it is not known whether the Affordable Care Act will remain, in whole or in part, it would be imprudent for New Jersey now to create an exchange before these critical threshold issues are decided with finality by the court," Christie said in a prepared statement.

He explained his veto by saying that the "better course of action" would be to "monitor the ever-changing landscape" surrounding the health care law and Supreme Court and "refrain from imposing its mandates upon our citizens until outstanding issues are settled, and the required course of action is clear."

'Burnishing his conservative credentials'

The veto was little more than Christie's effort to "burnish his conservative credentials at the expense of the folks who live in the state of New Jersey," said John Wisniewski (D-19), the Assembly deputy speaker who represents and the surrounding area, and who is a frequent critic of the governor.

Wisniewski said he was "disappointed" by Christie's veto. "He could have finessed it" by doing nothing and letting it automatically become law, the deputy assembly speaker said.

"It can be summed up in that [Christie has] once again done what's right for his political ambitions and what's wrong for the people of the state of New Jersey," Wisniewski said.

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) expressed similar concerns in a statement Thursday afternoon. 

"Gov. Christie is cutting off a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans who desperately need health insurance," Lautenberg said. "This is an example of the governor putting his tea-party driven national aspirations ahead of the health of residents of our own state.  The insurance exchange would give small businesses and uninsured New Jersey residents access to affordable health care coverage, but the governor's continued drive to the far right of American politics has hurt our state once again."

The governor, who has repeatedly denied he has any intention of leaving New Jersey to run for the Republican presidential nomination, is a supporter of the presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney. Christie's name has been floated as being for Romney's ticket. The governor has said he's "comfortable" with the idea.

Federal health care takeover

Christie's conservative critic and former rival for the Republican nomination for governor, Steve Lonegan, said in a statement that he "applaud[ed] Gov. Christie for using his veto pen today to thwart the federal takeover of our health care in New Jersey."

Lonegan, chairman of the NJ chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group, called the health care mandate an "unprecedented federal assault on our liberties."

It's not over, said Wisniewski, who wants to marshal the votes to override Christie's veto. He said he has until the end of the legislative session in January 2014 to do just that.

"If were a straight partyline vote, the prospects are slim" of passing it, Wisniewski said. "But this is more than an issue that affects Democrats. It affects the constituents of Republicans throughout the state. It shouldn't have party boundaries attached to it.

"Republican legislators should vote to override [the veto] because it's what's right for the people of the state."

(Patch Regional Editor Tim Zatzariny Jr. contributed to this report.)

Chris Welch May 14, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Matt - about access codes being used to lock shops into service contracts. In 17 years I've never heard that being done. We are considered an in-house shop by vendors. GE, Philips, HP, Elekta, Varian, Siemens, we deal with them all. "you can't adjust the PM schedule or checklist without the vendor say-so because they allege it conflicts with standard operation of the device. " If something goes wrong and a patient is hurt, you can bet the OEM will be named in the law suit. Don't you think they have a right to make sure the equipment with thier name on it is being maintained properly ? Nice to work for a big place like Jeff but what happens at these rural centers and places farther removed from the subscriber base of the jam-packed Northeast and its teaching hospitals? Not sure what you're asking me here. "As far as the study: another thing to consider is that it's only a small selection of people who sought advocacy help over a period of four years. Why should it take any case manager an average of 15 contacts with an insurer to deliver necessary care?" Can't answer that. Maybe someone could contact President Obama and ask him why the government is denying treatments to people. ;)
Matt Skoufalos May 14, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Hi Chris--the access codes issue is top-of-mind for me because I circulate on the medical device beat as well and just wrapped a piece on the subject. As you well know, most of that stuff is an issue of control--half the guys and gals in the ISO world were 25-year OEM techs before they set up their own shingles anyway. You can bet that this kind of thing is going on nationwide; I've spoken with a guy who's shopping a whitepaper on the subject. E-mail me and I'll shoot you over a link or two if you want to read more. My only point about Jeff being a top-notch academic institution is that it's not typically hamstrung by the challenges that other, more far-flung areas served primarily by ISOs must meet. Talk to some biomeds down South or in Appalachia and see how much money they have for staff training, or how many people they can keep in-house to do their own repairs, etc.--those dollars are always the first to go, and as equipment lifecycles lengthen, the knowledge gap gets bigger while the need for repairs increases, too. And hey, how about the GE-Alphasource deal--setting up an exclusive third-party provider for *only* your aftermarket parts stuff? Fishy, fishy.
Ric May 14, 2012 at 03:58 PM
David, do not get your hope up. Mitt Witt's current lead is statistical nil.
Chris Welch May 14, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Matt - would definitely like to read what you have. I understand the issues that small hospitals and clinics deal with. Been at training schools with guys that work them. Actually spent 3 weeks with a guy from Cuba. He was the only service engineer in the country for 12 machines. It's tough and expensive,no doubt. Just spent $5300 for a cover that is made from about $25 of composite material. But it can't make one, and I can't pick one up at Home Depot. So not much choice. One of the worries for the stand alone clinics, even those affiliated with hospitals, was the reimbursement rates. Obama was talking about reducing them. So you have places that are just barely staying afloat. Many of them are only able to do it because of the funds coming from the hospital, and he wants to cut reimbursement rates. Those places would close. And the patients they would normally treat would now have to travel further to reach the major hosptials. http://www.acr.org/HomePageCategories/News/ACRNewsCenter/Imaging-Cuts-in-2012-Medicare-Final-Rule.aspx Another problem with this imaging reduction plan is they are classifying linear accelerators as Diagnostic Imaging devices. Which they clearly are not.
Matt Skoufalos May 14, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Clearly they are not, but they're setting themselves up for another isotope shortage while NIH dumps $10M here and there into home-based manufacturing systems. The standalone thing is interesting because for a while there, standalone clinics were getting all the financial breaks, and now it's the hospitals that are scooping up rads because they can get more significant reimbursements there. Meanwhile, there's just widespread consolidation in that industry as people look for ways to monetize their roll-up investments from buying up freestanding imaging centers...so even as imaging becomes a greater part of our specialty and subspecialty modalities, the message that's being reinforced is how it's the most expensive service and rads are the ones who command the highest salaries. I'll send you a few links. Good chat.

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