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Advocate: Obamacare Repeal Costs Central Jersey Over $743M

Home News Tribune / MyCentralJersey.com — February 21, 2017

By Michael L. Diamond

Central Jersey would lose more than $743 million a year in federal funding and 15,000 jobs if Obamacare is repealed without a replacement, according to a study released by consumer advocates on Tuesday.

Nearly half of those figures are in Middlesex County, with Union County not far behind. The impact is a little less in Somerset County and the least severe in Hunterdon County, according to the study.

While replacement proposals on the table would soften the blow, they would leave New Jersey and consumers with less financial help for health care and possibly insurance policies that don't cover as much, they said.

"There is no fix that maintains the level of coverage and benefits that we now have here in New Jersey and across the nation under any of these proposals that are currently being floated," Maura Collinsgru, health care program director for New Jersey Citizen Action, a group which has been a supporter of Obamacare and describes itself as fighting for economic and social justice.

The report was released as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, is in the crosshairs from the Trump Administration and the Republican-led Congress, which made its repeal a priority on the campaign trail.

They have no shortage of complaints among consumers who are now required to have health insurance and are saddled with more of their own health care costs through higher deductibles. A recent Monmouth University poll found paying for health care has emerged as the top concern among American families.

But they are taking on a law that governs the nation's $3.2 trillion health care system. It amounts to $9,900 per person. It makes up 18 percent of the economy. And it is interconnected; changing one piece of it will cause ripples elsewhere.

"The ACA is in need of reform," said Peter Kaprielyan, a vice president at Inspira Health Network, which serves Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland counties. "The issue really is what the details will be."

Obamacare affects nearly every New Jerseyan. Its individual marketplace and Medicaid expansion covers more than 800,000 residents. It closed a funding gap for prescription coverage for 212,000 seniors with Medicare. It mandated free preventive care and eliminated annual caps for workers who are covered by their employers.

What would happen if the law was repealed without a replacement? A report released Tuesday by New Jersey Policy Perspective, a left-leaning research group, found New Jersey would lose $4.2 billion in federal funding from Medicaid's expansion and consumer tax subsidies. That money flows through the economy and is enough to support 86,000 jobs.

A county breakdown:

The numbers are stark for neighboring counties as well. Morris County would lose $146 million in federal funding and 3,000 jobs. Monmouth County would lose $241 million in federal funding a year, and 4,900 jobs, while Ocean County would lose $297 million in federal funding a year, and 6,100 jobs.

If polls are an indication, the chances that Congress simply does away with the ACA without a replacement are slim. Three-quarters of Americans either want to keep the law or want lawmakers to have a replacement ready, according to a tracking poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

"The need to figure out how to provide quality health care to people and keep it affordable has always been the $1 million question," said Christine Stearns, executive director and general counsel of Better Choices, Better Care NJ, an advocacy group that wasn't affiliated with the economic report. "I think it's unlikely you'd see Congress move to repeal without in particular a plan that preserves some of the most popular components of the ACA."

Among the proposals from Republicans in Congress: Consumers who did get subsidies would receive tax credits instead that would increase based on age instead of income. Congress would cap the amount of money states would receive for Medicaid. And consumers would be encouraged to contribute to Health Savings Accounts that could help them pay for deductibles. But they haven't provided key details such as how big of a tax credit consumers could receive.

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