New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, before Trump arrives at a campaign event in Tampa, Fla., Monday, March 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Chris Christie Shaking Down a Non-Profit to Fund His Plans

Chris Christie and his staff had the reputation of being playground bullies long before the bridge closure tied to his re-election. But they seem to have learned nothing from that or from him being passed over by the administration. Now Governor Christie is hell bent on shaking down a major non-profit in New Jersey to fund his government programs.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey serves close to 4 million people in New Jersey and operates as a non-profit. It is not getting rich off the backs of New Jersey residents, but it has accumulated healthy reserves and generated $12.2 billion in revenue, not profit.

Governor Christie wants to fund a state program to cover drug treatment for poor people and those who have no insurance. Horizon offered to contribute $135 million to the fund, but that was not good enough for Chris Christie. He expects the non-profit to cough up $300 million.

Horizon is not budging because it insures over 60% of the people in the Obamacare exchange and it has been experiencing a decline in its return on revenue. According to Standard & Poor’s, “The company’s return on revenue slid slightly from 1.9 percent in 2015 to 1.8 percent in 2016, and could decline to 1.3 percent.” (Source) So yeah, keep that in mind when you hear “$12.2 billion in revenue” cited. Again, that revenue is not profit.

How is Christie responding?

He is trying to get the state legislature to pass a bill that would force the non-profit health care provider to fork over cash.

At a press conference Thursday, Christie announced he had shared the outline of a bill that would allow the state to claw-back money from Horizon whenever its reserves exceeded 550 percent of what was needed to pay claims. The money would be handed it over to the state Department of Health to be spent at the discretion of future governors.

Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) confirmed the Senate Majority Office received an outline of a bill on Thursday from the governor’s office, but no one has decided yet whether to sponsor it.

Horizon officials have criticized the governor’s proposal, arguing the reserves are needed to protect policy holders from premium rate hikes.

S&P’s report suggests Horizon is doing the right thing by its customers, Horizon CEO Robert Marino said.

S&P says it is a bad idea. The company is a private non-profit. And Christie is shaking them down. Is it any wonder businesses are looking on New Jersey and realizing it is not a place to do business?

Colin Hanna at Let Freedom Ring released a statement on this shakedown that is worth reading. In part, he said

The Governor knows full well that his stewardship of New Jersey’s finances over the past 7 years has been anything short of an absolute disaster! The state’s credit rating has been downgraded an historic 11 times! Why the Governor would want to destroy a well-regarded, highly rated healthcare company at the expense of its healthcare policy holders, 3.8 million NJ consumers, makes no sense! It’s just his outrageous ego! He desperately wants to improve his political image! Desperate people do desperate things! He knows he can’t get the state to pay for his pet projects, so the only card he has left is to steal from the policy holders of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield!

Look, I realize Chris Christie needs to do something to make himself look good to angle for a job in the Trump administration. And there’s no better way than claiming he helped the poor and uninsured get over drug addiction. But shaking down a private insurer operating responsibly for its insured is not a smart way to do it. He risks the long term solvency of a non-profit responsible for the health care of a sizable portion of the people in New Jersey.

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Erick Erickson

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