MEASURE WILL HELP PLUG RETIREMENT SAVINGS “GAP”

State legislation to create a retirement savings program for private sector workers took a step forward last week.

On October 15, the New Jersey Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee approved A-4134, the Secure Choice Savings Program Act, by a vote of  8-to-3, with 2 committee members not voting.

We all know that Social Security, as helpful and necessary as it is, is not enough for seniors to live on. According to figures from AARP (formerly American Association of Retired Persons), the average monthly Social Security retirement benefit in New Jersey is $1,377/month. Just try living on that in this state, where the average monthly rental for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,199 per month, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. With utilities, food, clothing, medical expenses and other expenses, the math simply does not add up.  Continue reading MEASURE WILL HELP PLUG RETIREMENT SAVINGS “GAP”

LEGISLATION WOULD PROTECT PATIENTS FROM DEBT COLLECTORS

New Jersey residents faced with medical bills they cannot afford to pay would obtain some respite under newly proposed legislation.

A-4335, would require  medical providers to wait at least 90 days after the initial billing date before they sic a debt collector or lawyer on a patient.

Continue reading LEGISLATION WOULD PROTECT PATIENTS FROM DEBT COLLECTORS

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

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

BILL WOULD END SECRET SEX HARASS SETTLEMENTS, PRESERVE RIGHT TO SUE FOR DISCRIMINATION

Last month, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law legislation meant to make sure that how much you are paid at work does not depend on your gender, race, age, religion or any other personal characteristic covered by NJ’s broad anti-discrimination law.

Another important bill also intended to protect equality in the workplace, is now moving through the Legislature and was voted out of the Senate Labor Committee on March 5 and the Assembly Labor Committee on May 10.

The legislation, S-121/A-1242, would prevent companies from requiring that workers or job applicants agree up front to relinquish their right to sue for discrimination or harassment or any other substantive or procedural right related to a claim for discrimination in order to keep their jobs or get hired in the first place. It would apply also to retaliation claims—where an employer fired or took some other adverse action against someone for complaining of discriminatory conduct.

In addition, the bill would outlaw the secret settlement of discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims, also referred to as “non-disclosure agreements, the sort repeatedly used by movie producer Harvey Weinstein when he paid off his accusers, allowing him to keep sexually assaulting and harassing women for decades.

Continue reading BILL WOULD END SECRET SEX HARASS SETTLEMENTS, PRESERVE RIGHT TO SUE FOR DISCRIMINATION

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

LANDMARK EQUAL PAY BILL AWAITS SIGNATURE

The State of New Jersey is poised to enact a law that will provide the strongest equal pay protections in the U.S., on either the state or federal level.

The legislation, S-104, goes further than the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Act, a federal law, which overturned federal court precedent limiting the time in which women could sue over discriminatory pay practices and how much they could recover if they won.

Among other protections that exceed those in the federal, law, the NJ legislation allows recovery of up to six years of back pay, provides for treble damages and prohibits employers from requiring existing workers or new hires to waive their legal rights as a condition of employment. It specifically bars any waiver of the two-year time limit for filing suit. (A 2014 state appellate court decision, Rodriguez v. Raymours Furniture, had found such a waiver, one that shortened the time to sue to only six months, was enforceable but the state Supreme Court reversed in 2016.)

The proposed law applies not just to female employees but to any class of employees shielded by the broad scope of NJ’s Law Against Discrimination, or LAD. The LAD’s 17 protected categories include race, color, national origin, disability, age, affectional/sexual orientation, military status and genetic information.

Continue reading LANDMARK EQUAL PAY BILL AWAITS SIGNATURE