Good afternoon Chairman McKeon and members of the Committee. Thank you for this opportunity to provide my testimony on the proposed Easy Enrollment program. My name is Dr. Brittany Holom-Trundy, and I am a senior policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP). NJPP is a non-partisan, non-profit research institution that focuses on policies that can improve the lives of low- and middle-income people, strengthen our state’s economy, and enhance the quality of life in New Jersey.
NJPP strongly supports the establishment of an Easy Enrollment program for New Jersey. Research has shown that, in addition to affordability, a significant obstacle to lowering uninsured rates lies in the enrollment process itself. A lack of easily accessible resources for many residents, including people who do not speak English as their first language, who do not have access to a computer or may encounter difficulties using a computer, or who struggle with hourly wages and child care and do not have the time to invest in finding sources, means that there are residents who are eligible for affordable care who struggle to enroll. This program would take a regular event in the calendar — the filing of tax forms — and turn it into an opportunity for people to quickly and easily receive information about coverage for which they are eligible, simply by checking a box.
The idea of easing enrollment is not a new approach: we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic that a pause in disenrollment in Medicaid — resulting in the removal of constant re-enrollment burdens for those who may lose eligibility temporarily or need to switch to new coverage — has helped to lower the number of uninsured New Jerseyans. Additionally, similar, more limited options have existed for decades, including through programs like Express Lane Eligibility for enrolling children in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. These programs, when fully addressing the needs of residents, not only reduce obstacles for those residents, but decrease administrative costs where data sharing can eliminate redundant paperwork.
To ensure the program’s efficacy and that it meets residents’ realities, we should take lessons from successful enrollment experiences in other states — specifically in Maryland, where a similar Easy Enrollment program is already up and running. Waiving the shared responsibility payment is a good step to provide an upfront incentive for people to participate. Pre-populated forms, structured follow-up outreach systems, and auto-enrollment for those who qualify for free coverage would further ease the process and limit excessive time requirements for enrollment and verification.
We hope that the Committee will release this bill today and support the building of this important program.
Thank you for your time.
Link to a brief overview of Maryland’s Easy Enrollment program, mentioned above: https://www.marylandhealthconnection.gov/easyenrollment/