New Jersey Healthcare Advocates Rally To Preserve ACA

NJTV News — August 2, 2017

By Brenda Flanagan

"We will never surrender, organize resist." Hetty Rosenstein, New Jersey State Director of the Communications Workers of America CWA said.

Advocates cheered in Trenton Tuesday over Senate Republicans failure to repeal and replace Obamacare last week. Senate leadership has apparently stuck a fork in it, for now.

"We might've won this battle, but this war is not over by any stretch of the imagination. This is like a zombie that keeps coming back from the dead." Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross warned.

The President sent a tweet threatening to cut off billions in federal cost-sharing subsidies to insurance companies. The money helps low income clients pay out-of-pocket costs, but Trump calls them, "bailouts" and tweeted:

"If a new healthcare bill is not approved quickly, bailouts for insurance companies and bailouts for members of Congress will end very soon."

New Jersey could lose $166 million.

"Could you imagine if you were waiting to hear if your out of pocket was going to be supported or not? And you had to look on Twitter to find out? Could you imagine that?" Linda Schwimmer, President and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute said.

"Such an action would likely result in a spike in premiums in our state of between 20 percent to 30 percent and reverse New Jersey's outstanding progress in keeping insurance more affordable. It's time for the President and Congress to shift their focus to improving the ACA — instead of destroying it," Ray Castro, the Director of Health Policy for New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal think tank said.

Enter the bipartisan Problem-Solvers Caucus, 43 members of Congress who have devised a plan to keep Obamacare functioning, but with changes to keep the GOP on board. Under the plan, Congress would appropriate cost-sharing subsidies, ending threats of non-payment by the President. It would also set up a fund for states to hold down premiums and make it more affordable for insurers to cover pre-existing conditions. It would exempt companies with less than 500 employees from providing mandated coverage, compared to the current cut-off of only 50 workers. It would cut the tax on medical devices, but would not cut Medicaid.

Two New Jersey congressmen, Josh Gottheimer and Leonard Lance, are in the caucus.

"I've been talking for months about importance of stabilizing things so we can get premiums down and know when people wake up in the morning they're going to have healthcare tomorrow," Gottheimer said "Really the overall idea is can we agree on something and move the ball forward on healthcare."

"I hope that Republicans don't repeat mistakes of the Democrats. No Republican voted in favor of the ACA in 2010. I would prefer to move forward in a bipartisan way and that is the intent of this proposal," said Lance.

Advocates at Tuesday's event gave guarded reactions.

"We as consumer advocates are concerned about any proposals that would cut coverage and result in fewer people having access to healthcare," Maura Collinsgru of New Jersey Citizen Action said.

"I think there are a number of very positive features in the proposal, probably the most important of which is it would fund the cost sharing reduction credits which are now in jeopardy, the President threatened to take them away from all the states," Castro said.

The Problem Solvers Caucus says it will continue to fine tune its proposal throughout August. Everyone is waiting to see what the Trump Administration does next.

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