News Release

New Jersey Department of
Banking and Insurance
Commissioner Holly C. Bakke

For Immediate Release:  October 27, 2003

For Further Information::  Ellen Lovejoy - (609) 292-5064


TRENTON - Banking and Insurance Commissioner Holly C. Bakke today announced the formation of a working group charged with making health care more affordable and available to New Jersey residents.

The task force, the latest step the Department has taken under the direction of Governor James E. McGreevey, grew out of the Governor's Healthcare Coverage Conference last summer, during which international and national experts gathered at Princeton University to begin identifying problems with healthcare coverage.

"We must try to find ways to make the healthcare system work for New Jersey residents," Commissioner Bakke told the working group.

Commissioner Bakke acknowledged that the healthcare crisis is a national one and that federal laws limit New Jersey's control of it. But she stressed that she and Governor McGreevey are determined that the state do whatever it can to help New Jersey residents.

"One in seven New Jerseyans do not have health insurance. This is unacceptable. People should not have to choose between groceries and a doctor's visit. Statistics show that uninsured people live sicker and die younger.

"We appreciate the expertise, experience and different perspectives you bring to this vital task," Commissioner Bakke told the group of 40 people from across the healthcare system. "The problem is daunting, but I am confident your hard work will help us improve health care for all New Jerseyans."

The group is comprised of consumer advocates, doctors, business officials, healthcare experts and representatives from labor groups, hospitals, insurance companies, and the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Human Services.

The group will be divided into three roundtables. One will examine the existing system. A second will examine possible changes and alternative new systems or programs. The third team will focus on the uninsured.

Commissioner Bakke intentionally gathered a wide range of professionals and consumer advocates to get the various perspectives that are needed to develop solutions that provide real benefits to the residents of New Jersey.

Governor McGreevey in June told the attendees of the health conference at Princeton University that the federal government has been remiss on the issue of healthcare coverage.

But he also stressed that the state can not wait for a federal fix and charged Commissioner Bakke with examining ways that coverage in New Jersey can be made more affordable.

In addition to the working group formed by Commissioner Bakke, the Department also has scheduled discussions throughout the state with residents and other parties interested in trying to find meaningful changes.

Commissioner Bakke said that she welcomes all ideas on how the system can be improved.