BY TOM MACARTHUR
Repairing the health care system has always been about people—not politics for me. My mother died when I four years old and I watched my father, who had no insurance, struggle his whole life to pay off her medical bills. My first daughter, Gracie, was born with severe special needs, and passed away at the age of 11. The emotional cost to our family was devastating and the financial cost added up to more than $1 million in medical bills. This is the perspective I’ve carried with me as I’ve negotiated to make this bill better.
Over the past weeks, I’ve worked with President Trump, Vice President Pence, Speaker Ryan, HHS Secretary Price and my House colleagues to ensure the most vulnerable Americans were protected under the AHCA and everyone else’s costs could come down.
I successfully worked an additional $165 billion dollars to the most vulnerable among us. This included $60 billion in additional funding for older and disabled Americans in Medicaid and made sure that everyone in Medicaid Expansion – including over 500,000 New Jerseyans—could remain there permanently with a full federal match. I proposed and gained a $90 billion increase in the health care tax credits for Americans in the 50-64 age group and secured an additional $15 billion to help young mothers and those struggling with mental and substance abuse disorders.
Last week, I introduced an amendment to the AHCA that would make coverage of pre-existing conditions sacrosanct for all Americans and ensure essential health benefits remain the federal standard. Protecting preexisting conditions was critical for me and I could not support legislation that did not maintain this standard. In my amendment, states have the option to obtain a waiver from some federal standards, but the state must attest that its purpose is to reduce the cost of health care or increase the number of people with health care coverage. Under no circumstance can states obtain a waiver for pre-existing condition protection—period. This option gives flexibility to the states to decrease costs while maintaining important protections.
I’ve said many times that this bill is not perfect, but it’s an improvement from where it started and I stand by my efforts to make it better. It’s important that Congress was able to pass the AHCA and take this important step that will provide the American people with patient-centered, affordable care.
Tom MacArthur is the Republican Congressman from New Jersey’s Third District.