Secaucus Assembly Member Vincent Prieto, fresh off settling the contoversial state government shutdown, has appointed a Hudson County Schools of Technology board member as the newest member of the board of directors of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.
The settlement amongst the branches of government included extra board seats to government officials as part of state oversight. Prieto, as the speaker of the State Assembly, is allowed to name one person to the 17-member board. Joseph Muniz is the choice of Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto. Yet the choice of Muniz may not be without controversy.
It is believed Muniz will keep his job as board secretary at Hudson County Schools of Technology, which HudsonTV previously reported pays Muniz $183,000 a year, while taking on the new board spot at Horizon where it was also recently reported that Muniz will make $77,000 annually. Muniz (as well as Prieto) is involved with several other enterprises, although according to this state disclosure form it only means that Muniz (and in some cases, with his wife) reports more than $2,000 annual income from two other businesses.
The choice of Muniz may be as short as it may be controversial. Muniz is the choice of Prieto. HudsonTV previously reported that many state Democrats in the State Legislature want to replace Prieto, and should that happen, Muniz might also be replaced.
Horizon, the largest health insurance plan provider in New Jersey, was the center of the shutdown controversy. Governor Chris Christie has criticized Horizon management for high executive salaries and having what he called “excess” reserves. Christie wanted to seize the excess to fund opioid and drug treatment programs; Prieto opposed Christie’s plan and wanted the excess to go back to consumers. The standoff between Christie and Prieto led to a three-day shutdown of state government functions starting the weekend before the Fourth of July. It was during that three-day shutdown that Christie was photographed with friends and family, enjoying an otherwise totally deserted beach at Island Beach State Park, in a scene that has since resulted in worldwide scorn and infamy.
Horizon has a history of rubbing elbows with politicians. Last year, when Horizon introduced its controversial OMNIA plan that separated hospitals into two tiers and led to some lawsuits, Horizon chief executive officer Robert Marino was spotted at a Prieto fundraiser. This year, when Christie shut down state motor vehicles offices, parks and beaches, it was Marino who met with Prieto hours before a settlement was announced early on July 4th.