NJ rejects state-based health exchange

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) declined to set up a state-based insurance exchange under the healthcare law Thursday — the same day he met with President Obama on Hurricane Sandy aid.

The move will be welcomed by conservatives who blamed Christie for praising Obama's response to the storm. Sandy hit just before the election and distracted national media coverage from Obama's campaign against Mitt Romney, who lost.

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In a statement, Christie said New Jersey would default to a federally run exchange because the Obama administration did not provide enough information on alternatives. He also said an exchange would be "extraordinarily costly" for the state in spite of massive federal grants to build it.

"We will comply with the Affordable Care Act, but only in the most efficient and cost effective way for New Jersey taxpayers," Christie said in a statement.

"I will not ask New Jerseyans to commit today to a state-based exchange when the federal government cannot tell us what it will cost, how that cost compares to other options, and how much control they will give the states over this option that comes at the cost of our state’s taxpayers." 

In a technical sense, Christie vetoed a bill that would have begun to establish the exchange.

At least 17 states are declining to create their own marketplaces, and most are governed by Republicans who continue to oppose the healthcare law.

The decisions pose a huge challenge to the Department of Health and Human Services, which must step in and do the work itself. All exchanges must be up and running by Jan. 1, 2014.

Christie was in Washington Thursday to discuss recovery aid with Obama. He also met with White House chief of staff Jack Lew, budget director Jeffrey Zients and other senior officials, according to reports.