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N.J. health care industry reacts to Senate bill

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Statewide experts weighed in on the U.S. Senate's health care bill that was unveiled Thursday and its potential effects on New Jersey.

Betsy Ryan, New Jersey Hospital Association CEO and president

“The new Senate health care bill shows a callous disregard to the well-being of millions of American families.

“Amid a deep partisan rift, we have sadly lost sight of those who would be most affected by this measure and its radical changes to the Medicaid program:

  • Children and families, including one in every three New Jersey youngsters who are covered under NJ FamilyCare.
  • The disabled, including 205,000 people with disabilities in New Jersey who rely on Medicaid.
  • Senior citizens, many of whom rely on Medicaid for assistance with Medicare premiums. In fact, 45 percent of Medicaid spending in New Jersey assists senior citizens who are also enrolled in Medicare.

“The ironically named Better Care Reconciliation Act would in fact be far worse for patients and our nation’s health care system. Without health insurance, access to primary and preventive care is threatened, returning us to the days when the uninsured had few options but to use the emergency room for all their health care needs. That’s not better for the patient.

“The emergency room is the most intense, and expensive, level of care in our health care delivery system. Using the ER as our health care safety net is not better for our health care system.

“And shifting the costs of the Medicaid program from the federal government to the states is not better for New Jersey patients or taxpayers.”

Debra Wentz, New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies CEO and president

“It is difficult to comment on the just-released Senate health care repeal bill without expressing amazement at its inhumanity. As many have said before, it is clearly a tax cut for the wealthy and insurers disguised as a health care bill.”

The association said New Jersey would lose billions in federal funding and 54,000 New Jerseyans would lose their jobs under this bill. The latest estimate of New Jerseyans who would lose their health insurance stands at 540,000.

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr., D-10th District

“Senate Republicans negotiated this bill in the dark, and that’s where it should have stayed. When you think about what it would do to millions of American families — taking away their health coverage, raising their costs, gutting their protections, like those for pre-existing conditions — it’s unconscionable that anyone would support this bill. We hear a lot about Republicans keeping their promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but at what cost? Trumpcare is fatally flawed. Republicans need to come to the table with Democrats and make improvements to the law, not destroy it and inflict harm on millions.”

U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st District

“Senate Republicans are deceitfully calling this bill ‘better care,’ but it’s actually ‘badder care.’ It’s not any better; in fact, it’s not even care at all. This plan is still a tax break for the very wealthy disguised as ‘care’ for American families. Similar to the harmful bill that passed the House, this plan drastically reduces essential and preventative care for millions of families. It again turns its back on our children, women, seniors and our neighbors struggling with the disease of addiction. A handful of male Senators sat behind closed doors to decide the fate of millions of Americans. And, unfortunately, the fate of American families is not looking good today.”

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-6th District

“After weeks of backroom dealing, Sen. (Mitch) McConnell has finally made public the Senate Republican’s secret health care bill — and it’s no wonder they kept it behind closed doors for so long. This mean-spirited proposal is not substantively different from the moral monstrosity that Speaker (Paul) Ryan rammed through the House last month. The Senate’s Trumpcare bill would still rip health care away from millions of Americans, could strip protections for people with pre-existing conditions and allow insurance companies to charge older Americans five times more for coverage than younger Americans. The Senate bill also makes similarly devastating cuts to Medicaid in order to give giant tax breaks to the wealthiest few. The Medicaid cuts would ration care for more than 70 million Americans, the overwhelming majority of whom are seniors in nursing homes, pregnant women and children. This is a heartless proposal. The American people deserve better than a Congress that is willing to trade away their health care for tax cuts for the rich and corporations.”

Raymond Castro, New Jersey Policy Perspective senior analyst

“The Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is nothing more than a warmed-over version of the House bill, which would cause great harm to the health and economic security of hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans. The Senate proposal revealed today retains all the major provisions in the House bill that would harm New Jerseyans the most — and, in some cases, makes even deeper cuts. 

“The bill would cause New Jersey’s uninsurance rate to skyrocket. (We will not have the final estimate until the Congressional Budget Office completes its analysis, but the phase-out of the Medicaid expansion alone would cause the number of uninsured to increase by up to 400,000.)

“Specifically, the bill:

  • Effectively repeals the Medicaid expansion that assists 562,000 New Jerseyans. They would lose coverage at a slower rate than under the House bill — but the bottom line is that they would all still likely lose their health coverage. The federal matching rate would be reduced starting in 2021 in the Senate bill, instead of 2020 in the House bill, and it would be phased down over three years. However, many states may not have the funding to pay for the higher state matching rate, so they may have to end the expansion for new applicants the first year anyway. 
  • Continues the radical restructuring of Medicaid by permanently capping and reducing the funding needed to serve 1.6 million New Jersey seniors, people with disabilities and children. In fact, the Senate makes even deeper cuts to Medicaid.
  • Raises premiums and eliminates subsidies that help reduce costs for New Jersey consumers. There are up to 350,000 New Jerseyans who buy their own insurance who could end up paying much more. This would be an even greater problem when over a half-million New Jersey residents lose their Medicaid expansion coverage and must turn to the marketplace for insurance.
  • Allows states to drop basic services like maternity care, mental health and drug treatment. Insurers could in effect still deny insurance to people with pre-existing conditions by simply eliminating the benefits they need from their coverage. It is estimated that 24 percent of all non-elderly residents, or 1.2 million people, have a pre-existing condition in New Jersey.
  • Allows insurers to charge older residents five times more than younger adults for their coverage. Over half of everyone in the New Jersey marketplace is age 35 or older.
  • Includes huge tax cuts for the wealthy. Millionaires in New Jersey would receive a tax cut averaging $50,000, which would only increase the enormous income and wealthy inequality in the state.”

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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