Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times

Protests To Continue In Front Of Lance's Office

Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times — February 9, 2017

Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times

WESTFIELD — Protests continued on February 1 in front of Rep. Leonard Lance's (R-7th) Westfield office on North Avenue as New Jersey Citizen Action continues its Wednesday night protests against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as ObamaCare.

Citizen Action describes itself as "a statewide grassroots organization fighting for social and economic justice." It scheduled eight protests throughout the state last Wednesday in front of Mr. Lance's offices in Westfield and Flemington, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen's (R- 11th) office in Morristown, Rep. Frank LoBiondo's (R-2nd) Mays Landing office, Rep. Tom Mac Arthur's (R3rd) offices in Marlton and Toms River, and Rep. Chris Smith's (R4th) offices in Freehold and Hamilton.

"Republicans have started moving on their plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and cut funding for Medicare and Medicaid, with no plan to ensure that 30 million people nationwide - including one million here in New Jersey - can keep their health care coverage," according to a statement on the New Jersey Citizen Action website. "We're taking action to try and stop this insanity."

Dena Mottola Jaborska, associate director of Citizen Action, said 185 people took part in the protest in front of Mr. Lance's Westfield office.

Locally, Sharon Stockwell of Westfield has taken part in the first three marches (last night's occurred after press deadline.) She described herself to The Westfield Leader and The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times as a "foot soldier" for Citizen Action.

Mrs. Stockwell said she was one of 20 marchers invited to meet with Mr. Lance in his office during the January 25 protest. She said the group told the Congressman they want to see the ACA repaired instead of repealing the health care law signed by former President Barack Obama in his first term in office.

"We are really trying to press him into repairing rather than replacing (ObamaCare)," Mrs. Stockwell said. She said Mr. Lance would not commit to not voting for repeal of the law without a replacement bill set to go. "He plays a game of semantics" on where he stands on repeal and replace of the ACA, she added.

"It (Wednesday night marches) will go on for months...until this is resolved," Mrs. Stockwell told The Leader/Times.

When reached in Washington, D.C. last Friday, the Congressman said he supports the First Amendment rights of protesters to let their voices be heard, providing they do not interfere with anyone else's rights, something he said has not occurred.

The House has yet to vote on legislation to repeal the ACA in the current session of Congress. Also, while several proposals for new health care legislation are being considered, nothing has been introduced to date other than procedural votes.

The House passed a budget resolution last Friday that gives Congress the legislative tools to repeal and replace ACA. In a press release, Mr. Lance said: "Too many Americans are disappointed and disillusioned with Obamacare. The law is too expensive, too restrictive and too burdensome. Premiums have dramatically increased, co-ops and state exchanges have failed, and medical costs continue to skyrocket."

"We are going to replace the law, repeal the law," Mr. Lance told The Leader/Times, adding that, "I have never favored repeal without replacement."

"We can do this step by step" but not all in one bill, he acknowledged. "It will be a series of bills," he added, and will likely take months and perhaps years before it is fully implemented, he said. He said House Republicans will have to work with their Senate counterparts and that some Democratic support will likely be necessary.

In terms of President Trump's comments that he wants quick action on repealing and replacing ACA, Mr. Lance's press secretary John Byers said the process to fix or replace AC A by Congress is where 'Trump's rhetoric reaches reality."

The Congressman explained that while only a simple majority is needed to pass some parts ACA reform legislation in the Senate through a procedure called reconciliation, 60 votes will be needed for some parts of any replacement bills in the Senate. He also does not see the Republican Senate majority using the so-called "nuclear" option to eliminate a filibuster on legislation.

Mr. Lance said that out of 3,000 counties in America, one-third of them only have one option under Obamacare, meaning just over 1,000 counties have one plan to choose from. Likewise, he said he has had constituents in his office crying because of what he described as "tremendous" increases in both their insurance premiums and deductibles.

According to his press release, the Congressman "supports bolstering health savings accounts, incentives for states to control health care costs, allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines, permitting small businesses to pool together to purchase coverage for their employees, creating state-based insurance pools for individuals with pre-existing conditions and medical malpractice reform."

A call and an email for comment regarding last week's march was not returned from Leila Amirhamzeh, who is the organizer for the Citizen Action marches.

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