New Jersey's #TaxTimeSEP passed easily but still needs some tweaks before being implemented

New Jersey

I've spent the past few days documenting the explosion of states implementing Tax Time Special Enrollment Periods. These are new policies, pioneered by Maryland a couple of years ago, which allow uninsured residents to simply check off a new box on their state tax returns which gives permission to the state treasury department and/or ACA exchange to determine whether the tax filer is eligible for free or low-cost healthcare coverage.

If the state determines that the filers/their families are indeed eligible for either Medicaid, CHIP, or a fully-subsidized ACA exchange policy, the new program then allows state agencies to contact the tax filer to let them know they're eligible and to either enroll them automatically or work with them to get them enrolled.

Besides Maryland, Colorado, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have already launched their versions, while Virginia's law is being phased in over a 2-year period and New Mexico just had theirs pass unanimously in their state House, with the state Senate being the next step.

In addition, it turns out that New Jersey already passed similar legislation last year, but as reported by Louise Norris, it was "conditionally vetoed" by Gov. Phil Murphy:

In December 2020, S.3238 was introduced in New Jersey’s Senate, calling for the state to create an “easy enrollment” program, similar to the program that Maryland began using in 2020, and that Colorado will being to use in 2022.

The legislation passed unanimously in both chambers, and was sent to Governor Phil Murphy in June 2021. But in November 2021, Murphy conditionally vetoed it, sending it back to the legislature with his recommendations.

Murphy noted that although he “fully support[s] the concept of integrating unemployment and tax data to streamline enrollment in health coverage, the program designed under the bill presents numerous operational challenges that risk creating consumer confusion and unattainable expectations.” His recommendations include “a longer implementation timeline, a clearer delineation of the work to be performed by each department, and the leveraging of existing systems and programs to increase efficiencies and ensure full compliance with federal law.”

It’s unclear whether the legislature with accept the governor’s recommendations or how long it will take for them to act on those recommendations. So for the time being, New Jersey’s easy enrollment program is up in the air.

Hopefully the state legislature will make the appropriate tweaks and push the revised version through ASAP, though at this point it will likely have to wait until next year to go into effect.