TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie's proposal to use surplus Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield funds to expand health-care services for people with low incomes doesn't have a chance.

House Speaker Vincent Prieto on Tuesday told reporters the idea will not get a committee hearing because there is "no appetite for it," meaning it cannot advance any further, according to the Observer.

“I have actually expressed the concerns, especially the uncertainty in Trenton and given the amount of people insured and this nonprofit company makes less than 1 percent, we have to be sure we do not hurt their reserves. It's not a surplus - it's reserves that they have to have, to be able to pay out if a calamity happens. They only have 75 days (cash on hand). So that is of serious concern - not just to me but to my entire caucus," Prieto told reporters.

The governor proposed using what he called Blue Cross Blue Shield's "abundant surplus" of $300 million to fund an expansion of health care services for low-income patients and to expand drug rehabilitation treatment for the uninsured.

The insurance company pushed back and said the what it calls a reserve does not represent excess profit but a protection against unexpected costs. Christie accused the company of  “profiteering on taxpayer money and profiteering on the poor” with Medicaid money that was available after his administration expanded Medicaid.

The governor said that Horizon is no longer the “insurer of last resort,” as it was originally intended, but a “monopolistic insurance company” with highly paid executives with luxurious perks, and a payroll packed with “retired politicians and retired political operatives.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield spokesman Kevin McArdle praised Prieto's decision for protecting its policyholders from "statehouse political agendas.

"Each passing day seems to bring more uncertainty and volatility from Washington and it is hard to imagine a worse time to impose a $300 million tax hike on Horizon’s policyholders or jeopardize the security of their health insurance.”

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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