UPDATE: NJ Government Shuts Down Over Horizon Dispute

Governor Chris Christie shut state government down shortly after midnight Saturday and has ordered lawmakers into a special session at 11 a.m. He and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto are at odds over a plan to alter governance for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state's largest insurer.

State parks closed for the July 4th weekend, and non-essential workers are furloughed after a standoff over New Jersey’s largest health insurer left the state without a budget at the start of a new fiscal year.

Governor Chris Christie ordered lawmakers into session Saturday at 11 a.m. to break the impasse. The fiscal year began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

Christie and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto remain deadlocked over a bill to revamp governance of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of New Jersey. Christie has refused to consider the $34.7 billion budget deal without the Horizon bill; Prieto says the Horizon plan is unfair to policyholders and refuses to post it.

Senate Democrats passed the Horizon bill Thursday and have said it could be repealed after Christie’s successor takes office next January. While many provisions do not take effect until February 2018, some transparency provisions take effect right away. And on Friday, Horizon officials were reminding reporters that if the bill passed, the company would need to file 2018 rates based on the bill’s renewal of Horizon’s status as the “insurer of last resort.”

Without a new state budget, Christie declared a state of emergency and ordered the shutdown shortly after midnight Saturday. Prieto called Assembly members into the chamber Friday evening and opened the board for voting, but it became clear he would come nowhere close to the 41 votes needed to pass the budget.

The first sign that New Jersey's impasse could affect national policy came at the end of a wide-ranging news conference that Christie held midday. Earlier in the exchange, Christie had discussed the origins of the Horizon bill, which began with a call during his February budget address for $300 million from Horizon's surplus to fight opioid addiction.

POLITICO New Jersey's Katie Jennings asked Christie if he would make similar recommendations, for nonprofit insurers to be asked to fund opioid treatment, in his role on President Trump's commission to combat the opioid epidemic. Christie said that it was unlikely that such a recommendation would appear in an interim report due in 2 weeks, but “maybe” it would appear in the final report.

Read more about the Horizon dispute in New Jersey.