Earlier this year I wanted to gauge the enormity of what the Affordable Care Act had done for our residents here in Camden County by speaking directly with our Board of Social Services.
The board was responsible for processing new applications after the law was passed and experienced a significant rise in the number of residents being supplied with health insurance, addiction treatment services and nursing home funding for the elderly.
What I found was staggering, more than 62,500 residents joined the Medicaid rolls since the law’s inception and the state’s willing expansion of Medicaid under the act. This means more than 12 percent of our total population in the county signed up for insurance through Medicaid, and more than 16 percent of our population was, or is now, currently enrolled in the federal program. That’s almost one in every five people in our county, from the disabled to middle class seniors that have exhausted their savings. In fact, 20 percent of Medicaid recipients throughout the nation are elderly nursing home residents.
Furthermore, this does not include the thousands of people who were finally able to get affordable health coverage for themselves and their families in the new marketplace created by the ACA. In addition, this did not include children who were able to stay on their parent’s plans until the age of 26.
I bring these numbers forward to illustrate a very important point, the bill circulating through the U.S. Senate will have a devastating impact here in Camden County kicking residents off of Medicaid and leaving them without healthcare insurance. In total, the current U.S. Senate bill wants to cut $1 trillion from the Medicaid budget over the next ten years, cutting off a lifeline for seniors, the disabled and the indigent of our community.
Not to mention, this bill will exclude insurers from covering pre-existing conditions and strip away a variety of other benefits consumers now get from the current law. There has been much debate throughout the nation on the ACA, but one thing is clear, Camden County families will be hurt from both the legislation that U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell has proposed and the bill sent to the U.S. Senate from the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Just looking at our county statistics you can see why I want to be clear about the Freeholder Board’s opposition to repealing the current law and replacing it with a poison pill that will undermine the progress that’s been made in insuring families, children and seniors.
That said, the ACA is not a perfect bill, but it has provisions in it that help our county and country excel by providing Medicaid expansion, insuring more people, and creating a safety net for the sick that was unavailable to residents in previous years. So, the expectation of the American public should be for Congress to the enhance the ACA - not destroy it by creating what can only be described as a massive redistribution of wealth by moving the money saved in cuts to Medicaid to pay for proposed tax cuts for the super-rich and giant corporations.
While we have watched the debate over healthcare proceed over the last seven months we should be working on improving the system and making it more affordable for the American public. What Congress and President Trump should not be doing is eliminating an essential piece of the social safety net that serves thousands of Camden County residents.