By Garrett Racz
As a millennial myself, I was disheartened to read Alex Cucciniello’s op-ed in which he argued that the Murphy administration and Democrats are causing millennials to “leave New Jersey in droves.” His thesis, that Governor Murphy’s support for making the Affordable Care Act work in New Jersey by reinstating the individual mandate will force millennials out of the state, is entirely unsubstantiated and resigned from reality. To the contrary, improving our healthcare system will ensure that millennials are more likely to stay in New Jersey.
First and foremost, to call the Affordable Care Act “a version of socialized medicine that is not working well here or in other countries” is to reveal a basic and tragic lack of understanding of the ACA and healthcare in general.
To claim that our current system is “socialized medicine” is to forget that it is exclusively run by for-profit insurance companies and many insurance plans are still too expensive for low-income Americans to afford. Far from being a Democratic idea, the precursor to the ACA was developed in Massachusetts by Republican Mitt Romney. Socialized medicine would at the very least include a public option, but would really be a single-payer system. The ACA is to socialized medicine what Cucciniello is to a health care policy expert. There is no correlation.
Nevertheless, Cucciniello’s central claim, that millennials can’t afford to pay $695 a year to opt-out of health insurance is confusing on many levels. First, it defies logic to argue that New Jerseyans would be better off without health insurance. If everyone buys into the Affordable Care Act, prices go down for everyone. For all of its deficiencies, the ACA is still a marked improvement from the system, or lack thereof, we had before. And the reality is that the only way to provide maximum benefits to the public is by incentivizing everyone to pay into the system so it can work. The individual mandate is the key component in the ACA that accomplishes just that.
In many ways, Cucciniello’s stance on the ACA embodies the quintessential Republican mindset that if you can’t afford healthcare, tough luck. He says, “we do not want to be forced to pay for something we don’t want and most likely will never use.” Really? Millennials don’t ever get sick and go to the hospital? Millennials don’t want to pay into a system that has, unquestionably, saved lives? This millennial begs to differ.
Unlike Cucciniello, I believe that we should strengthen the Affordable Care Act to provide New Jerseyans, regardless of socioeconomic status, with the right to life. While we acknowledge that the ACA is imperfect, we should also vow to improve it. For example, a Medicare-option to compete with insurance companies and keep costs down would be an improvement. As a capitalist country, we should encourage competition and do everything we can to keep insurance costs down.
New Jersey is not without its faults. Criticisms of how the Governor and state legislature will appropriate taxpayer funds are important and debate regarding an issue as critical as healthcare is worth having. But if anything, Governor Murphy’s initiative to strengthen the ACA is an incentive for millennials to stay in New Jersey. We ought to be praising our new Governor for his commitment to providing the highest quality of healthcare possible. So long as our state government prioritizes the well-being of people over politics, this millennial will be proudly staying in Jersey.
Garrett Racz is a sophomore at The College of New Jersey and State Council Chairman of the College Democrats of New Jersey.