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N.J. Move on Health Plan May Cost Towns but Help Power Broker -

Published: April 19, 2011

The lawmaker, Stephen M. Sweeney, the State Senate president, has placed a provision in a health care insurance bill that would prohibit the program from accepting new members.

Mr. Sweeney, a Democrat from Gloucester County, is a close ally and a childhood friend of George E. Norcross 3rd, perhaps the most influential Democratic boss in New Jersey. Mr. Norcross, of Camden County, owns one of the largest brokers of health insurance to government entities in the state, and his company has been losing customers to the program Mr. Sweeney wants to rein in, according to an analysis of the program’s records.

Mr. Sweeney, who rose to prominence with Mr. Norcross’s support, acknowledged in an interview that he had spoken with Mr. Norcross about the provision. But Mr. Sweeney said he had not introduced it at Mr. Norcross’s behest.

Mr. Sweeney said the state benefits program was losing hundreds of millions of dollars and required costly state subsidies. A ban on new members would “allow time for stabilization and to judge the plan’s sustainability,” he said.