A trove of progressive health care bills are now on the desk of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D). On Thursday, lawmakers in the state sent him several measures like mandatory paid sick leave, knowing the governor is all but certain to sign them — unlike his Republican predecessor Chris Christie.
Once the bills are signed, New Jersey would become the 10th state to enact a paid sick leave law — a critical workplace benefit that helps employees balance work, family, and medical needs.
The bills mandate 40 hours of paid sick leave, which workers could use for themselves, their children, or sick relatives. Workers are eligible for this benefit after 120 days of employment. This measure could not have passed under Christie, who once said he opposes making paid sick leave mandatory because he doesn’t “believe in more regulations that would make us less competitive.”
A state-wide paid sick leave law could help address existing income and gender disparities. Low-income mothers, including those who are employed part-time and who live in rural areas, are less likely to be offered these benefits, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey. Mothers are also more likely than fathers to take time off to care for sick children, and consequently often take a bigger financial hit.
Another measure awaiting Gov. Murphy’s signature is one that shores up the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace. New Jersey could become the first state to bring back an individual mandate penalty after Congress repealed the federal mandate as part of its tax bill last year. It would be the second state to require residents to have insurance; a similar mandate in Massachusetts predates the federal law. Other blue states, like Maryland and California, have considered passing a state-wide mandate, which is considered a critical marketplace component for insurance companies seeking to keep premiums low and not exit the marketplace.
New Jersey lawmakers passed another bill that directs the state to apply for a federal waiver that would recreate a reinsurance program, or insurance for insurance companies — another measure intended to lower premiums on the ACA marketplace.
Lastly, New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill that would limit surprise, out-of-network medical bills. It requires health care facilities and professionals to better inform patients about whether their health plans cover the desired services. The measure aims to address inadvertent, out-of-network charges when care is ordered by an in-network provider, if the necessary services are not available at that facility. The bill also establishes an arbitration process when out-of-network providers and insurers can’t agree on reimbursement rate.
Some of these bills had been in stalled in the legislature because of a veto threat from Christie. Murphy, who ran on a progressive agenda, now will have a chance to act on some of the policies he ran on. The first bill Murphy signed into law was a health bill that restored funding to various health clinics, including Planned Parenthood.