04/14/2017

Chris Christie Needs A New (And Responsible) Strategy To Fight Opioid Abuse [Watch]

Steve Forbes, Fox News

First off, let me say that Chris Christie, in my opinion, has been a highly effective governor who has chalked up- despite formidable obstacles- -- a number of positive, concrete achievements of enormous value to the well-being of the Garden State.

New Jersey has been lucky to have him.  

But he has proposed a plan to combat opioid abuse that doesn’t make sense. He has been given bad advice. He needs to hit the reset button and come up with a strategy that will fix this serious problem without creating more problems.

Gov. Christie is absolutely right to make opioid addiction in New Jersey a real priority. As an adviser to the Trump administration on combatting the nationwide opioid epidemic, Gov. Christie knows his home state is suffering more than most.

New Jersey’s rate of heroin overdose is three times the national average and drug overdose is now our leading cause of accidental death. There are roughly 128,000 heroin users in New Jersey, with opioid addiction affecting citizens across a broad spectrum of age and income brackets.

In a budget speech, Gov. Christie proposed funding expanded drug rehabilitation treatment for uninsured New Jerseyans by taking $300 million from the  reserve fund of non-profit Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, money he termed an “abundant surplus.”  There are several things wrong with this plan.

In the first place, good New Jersey corporate citizen Horizon has for 85 years been providing high quality, affordable health insurance in every corner and to every citizen   including traditionally vulnerable populations such as the poor or elderly. While it is a not-for-profit, it is not a charity but a uniquely structured entity that paid $545 million in taxes last year, including $207 million to the state and $6 million in local property taxes.

And their reserves – a necessity for any insurance provider – are anything but excessive. In fact, just the opposite – while adequate, they are shrinking due to the increased risk associated with insuring so many vulnerable citizens including those now covered as a result of the ACA.

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