30 influential business, nonprofit, elected officials express support for Horizon’s bid to become not-for-profit mutual

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey’s effort to change its corporate structure to a not-for-profit mutual got a big boost Wednesday when Move Health Care Forward New Jersey released a statement in strong support — and a list of 30 groups, organizations and elected officials who favored the move.

Move Health Care Forward New Jersey is a 501(c)(4) established to educate the public on the value of modernizing New Jersey’s laws to facilitate advancements in affordable, accessible and quality health care by promoting health care innovation and modernization of nonprofit insurance entities.

Dennis Bone, its highly regarded and well-respected president, spoke strongly about the need for the change — and how he feels Horizon has correctly updated the parameters of the request, which was first made last year.

“This legislation addresses many of the concerns that were previously raised about Horizon changing its corporate structure,” Bone said in a statement. “It makes clear that Horizon will continue to operate under its charitable and benevolent status, will continue to fall under the same regulations and guidelines from the Department of Banking and Insurance, as well as the attorney general, and that there are no stockholders, nor will there be a conversion.

“The bill also does not create a new law, but rather amends existing law, one of the largest points of contention that was expressed. Horizon deserves credit for its willingness to work with the Governor’s Office and legislative leadership to address these concerns and move forward in the best manner possible.

“Now that these issues of concern have all been appropriately addressed, it is important that this legislation move forward. The state’s outdated health care laws continue to make it difficult to meet consumer demands, especially in the age of COVID-19. This legislation will help make health care better for millions of New Jerseyans by making Horizon better. We cannot and should not turn down this opportunity.”

The effort needs to be approved by the state Senate and Assembly — and then signed by the governor.

On Tuesday, Horizon Executive Chairman Kevin Conlin appeared before the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. He said allowing Horizon to change its corporate structure would enable the organization to better serve its customers.

With more than 3.6 million covered lives, Horizon easily is the biggest health insurer in the state. But it is one, Conlin argued, that cannot react rapidly to changes in customer needs or technological updates in the marketplace.

Conlin said Horizon must change to meet — and match — this coming change. It is a difficult balancing act, he said.

“Unlike our for-profit competitors, who focus on delivering value to their shareholders and make decisions based on financial reward, Horizon is a New Jersey-based not-for-profit,” he said. “Our focus is on delivering value for our members, not shareholders.”

Many of the state’s largest and most influential chambers were among those in favor of Horizon’s request, including:

  • New Jersey Chamber of Commerce;
  • Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey;
  • New Jersey Business & Industry Association;
  • Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey;
  • Meadowlands Chamber;
  • African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey;
  • Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

The New Jersey chamber said: “The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce enthusiastically supports Senate bill S3218, which would allow Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey to apply to the state to become a not-for-profit mutual holding company. This legislation modernizes vastly outdated state laws created long ago when health care technology and markets were vastly different. If enacted, S3218 will provide much-needed changes so Horizon can broaden the scope of its investments, create new management models and offer a wider range of products and services.”

The South Jersey chamber said: “The MHC legislation would undue years of state restrictions on how Horizon can invest funds. These limitations, which apply only to Horizon, prevent the company from investing even further in the kinds of New Jersey-based innovation companies that help drive the state’s economy and are so important to New Jersey’s future.”

Other organizations include:

  • Garden State Equality;
  • The Latino Institute;
  • Brand New J;
  • Community in Crisis;
  • ASPIRA Inc. of New Jersey;
  • Parker Family Health Center;
  • Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative;
  • Mainstage Center for the Arts;
  • Positive Impact;
  • Community FoodBank of New Jersey;
  • Diabetes Foundation;
  • Rutgers University Foundation;
  • Symphony in C;
  • Trenton Thunder;
  • Branch Brook Park Alliance;
  • Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District;
  • Somerset Patriots.

Garden State Equality said: “GSE has been in existence for 16 years now, and we have always known Horizon to be steadfastly committed to preserving affordable health care through bold and innovative endeavors. We wish them great success and hope that their accomplishments inspire further improvements and advances for our state. In short, the reason that Garden State Equality and our 150,000 members support this proposed change is because of its potential to expand access to quality, affordable health care for millions of New Jerseyans, including LGBTQ+ residents, members of the BIPOC community, seniors and other traditionally underserved groups.”

And a number of elected officials:

  • Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo;
  • State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco;
  • Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise;
  • Hudson County Freeholder Chair Anthony Vainieri;
  • Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse;
  • Bergenfield Mayor Arvin Amatorio.

DiVincenzo said: “As the Essex County executive, it is with great confidence that I support and endorse the application by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey to become a not-for-profit mutual holding company. This change is in keeping with our mission of empowering and sustaining businesses across the state through entrepreneurship and capitalistic initiatives. New Jersey would be well served by this bill becoming law.”

Read more from ROI-NJ: