Historic Move by Baltimore to Safeguard its Water System

New Jersey is not the only place where communities are struggling to keep essential public water resources out of private hands.

On August 6, the Baltimore City Council unanimously approved a resolution, Bill 18-0271, to amend the city charter to prohibit the sale or lease of its water system. The amendment would declare the “inalienability” of sewer and water-supply systems and exempt those systems, and their “operations and uses” from charter provisions that otherwise authorize the “grant of franchises or rights relating to the operation or use of public property.”

Continue reading Historic Move by Baltimore to Safeguard its Water System

ACA ENROLLMENT FALLS IN NEW JERSEY, NEW LAWS SHOULD HELP

Efforts by the Trump Administration and the GOP majority in Washington to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka “Obamacare,” are, unfortunately, having an impact that is driving down the number of people with individual health insurance policies in New Jersey.

According to a June 20 press release from the NJ Department of Banking & Insurance, health insurance enrollment was down more than 10 per cent for the first quarter of 2018, compared to a year earlier. The total number of state residents signed up for individual (non-employer, non-government) health plans was 328,761, down from 368,619 for the first quarter of 2017.

In other words, almost 40,000 fewer people have health coverage. Continue reading ACA ENROLLMENT FALLS IN NEW JERSEY, NEW LAWS SHOULD HELP

CHAIR OF PURGED BOARD DECRIES GUTTING OF PRO-CONSUMER AGENCY

As Director of the Fair Financial Services Project of Texas Appleseed, a sister organization and part of our collaborative network, Ann Baddour helps bring low-income and immigrant consumers into the financial mainstream, combating problems such as predatory lending. For the past four years, she has also been a member of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Advisory Board, or CAB, and since last October, has served as CAB chairwoman.

On June 6, Baddour and the rest of the 25-member volunteer board were removed, two days after 11 of them held a press conference, criticizing the cancellations of CAB meetings and apparent efforts to sideline the Board since a Trump appointee took over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB.

Read what she has to say about it in a New York Times op-ed published on June 7, entitled “Why Did the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Fire Us?”

According to Baddour, the CFPB, “established to put the financial well-being of families ahead of the interests of lobbyists and Wall Street,” is being “gutted.”

“This sudden move and other recent changes at the bureau, including efforts to loosen rules intended to protect families and businesses, raise the worrisome prospect that the country will once again end up on a path to foreclosed homes, market failures and taxpayer bailouts,” wrote Baddour.  Continue reading CHAIR OF PURGED BOARD DECRIES GUTTING OF PRO-CONSUMER AGENCY

MURPHY SIGNS LAW TO END SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS

Governor Phil Murphy today signed into law landmark legislation that will help keep health care affordable for New Jersey residents by protecting them from surprise medical bills for out-of-network health care.

At least with state-regulated health insurance  plans covered by the plan, consumers will no longer have to pay any more than they would for in-network care unless they are informed of those added costs in advance and consent to pay them.  And added out-of-network charges could never be imposed for receiving needed medical care in an emergency situation. Consumers would remain free to obtain care from out-of-network providers but those bills would no longer come as a surprise.

Other insurance plans that fall under federal law and are thus not subject to regulation by the state, will be able to opt into the law, which takes effect 90 days from today.

The legislation, A-2039, is known as the Out-of-Network Consumer Protection, Transparency, Cost Containment and Accountability Act, and the name aptly describes what it does.

For more detail, read my earlier blog posts.  HERE and HERE.

Continue reading MURPHY SIGNS LAW TO END SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS

MAJOR STEP FORWARD IN EFFORT TO END SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS

A bill that will protect consumers from surprise medical bills took a crucial step toward passage on April 5 when it won narrow approval from the Senate Commerce Committee, by a 3-2 vote.

That same day, S-485/A-2039, also known as the Out-of-Network Consumer Protection, Transparency, Cost Containment and Accountability Act, also made it past the Senate Budget Committee (7-3) and the Assembly Appropriations Committee (7-2).

The Senate Commerce vote was regarded as the most uncertain of the three because earlier versions of the bill had stalled in that committee in the prior two legislative sessions.

The bill had already been reported out of the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee on March 5, so it is now cleared for votes in both houses.

It is posted for an Assembly floor vote this coming Thursday, April 12, and it is hoped that when the list of bills is posted for the full Senate session that same day, it will also be listed there.

The legislation, most centrally, holds consumers harmless from having to pay more than the in-network rate when they receive services from an out-of-network health provider in an emergency situation or through inadvertence. For non-emergency care, consumers need not pay higher out-of-network rates unless they are informed in advance of the provider’s out-of-network status and what that provider will charge and they agree to those services and charges.

Continue reading MAJOR STEP FORWARD IN EFFORT TO END SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS

TIME TO PROTECT CONSUMERS FROM SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS

For almost 10 years now, New Jersey lawmakers have been grappling with the issue of what to do about surprise medical bills.

They are the invoices sent by doctors and other health care providers who are not part of your insurance company’s network. So when your insurance does not cover the full amount of what they charge for their services, they come after you to pay the difference. Hence the term “balance billing.”

Continue reading TIME TO PROTECT CONSUMERS FROM SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS

STATE BACKS OFF EFFORT TO PRIVATIZE ATLANTIC CITY WATER SYSTEM

Atlantic City residents can stop worrying that the state, which took over their local government in the fall of 2016, is going to sell or lease their water system out from under them, at least in the near future.

In a statement made public on December 20, Jeffrey Chiesa, who was chosen by Governor Chris Christie to oversee the state takeover of the City, announced “the public can rest assured that the MUA [Municipal Utilities Authority] will not be privatized by the State.”

Continue reading STATE BACKS OFF EFFORT TO PRIVATIZE ATLANTIC CITY WATER SYSTEM