GOP Proposal Would Shift Billions of Federal Costs to New Jersey and Reduce Consumer Protections

Trenton – Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto joined New Jersey Citizen Action, Medicaid advocates and health care consumers in denouncing GOP attempts to defund Medicaid.  GOP Senators have been secretly working on their version of the American Health Care Act, which passed the House on May 4, 2017.  It is expected that on Thursday, the Senate will release a bill that slashes Medicaid funding and phases out the Medicaid Expansion, with a vote coming as early as next week, without any public hearing.  Meanwhile, Republicans in the House have introduced a budget resolution that would force additional cuts that would further damage the state’s Medicaid program that 1.8 million New Jersey residents rely on for their health care.

“It’s stunning and beyond belief that President Trump and his Republican allies would push such a reckless and scary plan, but it mirrors their mean-spirited politics,” said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen).  “The impact of the Republican plan will be felt throughout the state.  The elderly will be hurt.  Young adults will be hurt.  Hospitals will be hurt. The state budget will be hurt.  The state economy will be hurt.  The only people who won’t be hurt are the millionaires who would get a tax cut.  Think about that – as families lose health care and our grandparents and adult children pay more, millionaires will get a tax break.  It’s inconceivable.  This shouldn’t be about politics.  This must be about saving lives.”  Speaker Prieto referred to the $525 billion dollars in tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest citizens proposed in the AHCA bill and President Trump’s budget proposal.

Maura Collinsgru, Health Care Program Director of New Jersey Citizen Action, stated, “Medicaid is being attacked on multiple fronts in Washington.  Medicaid funding is not simply a line item in the federal budget – it is a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of New Jersey’s most vulnerable populations.  These proposed cuts would have dire consequences for New Jerseyans.    It’s time for Governor Christie and GOP elected officials here at home to defend the program that has benefited millions of New Jerseyans.”

Indeed, Governor Christie has called New Jersey’s Medicaid Expansion one of his most positive achievements.  Nicole Pratt, Senior Trainer and FASD Coordinator for the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, and herself a consumer of health coverage through the ACA, said, “I, myself, have health insurance through the Marketplace, and my daughter benefits from the Medicaid Expansion .  I work with special needs children and their families who rely on this coverage for crucial and specialized care.  The loss or cuts to this coverage would be devastating.  So where is our Governor’s voice in all of this?”

The impacts of the proposed cuts for New Jersey were detailed in an updated analysis released today by New Jersey Policy Perspective.

Ray Castro, New Jersey Policy Perspective Director of Health Policy, stated, “It is alarming that the Senate appears to be adopting most of the major cutbacks in the House-passed health bill, which would cause incredible harm for most New Jerseyans,  whether they are uninsured or not.  This bill would more than reverse the historic progress that New Jersey has made in reducing the uninsurance rate under the ACA by causing over a half million New Jerseyans to become uninsured, and potentially reducing consumer protections for millions more with mostly employer-based insurance.”

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez echoed those concerns.  “This report not only further illustrates how devastating the House Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act would be for the people of New Jersey, but makes clear why Senate Republicans are afraid to share their bill with the American people.  The GOP plan would leave over half a million New Jerseyans uninsured, cost us more than 50 thousand jobs, blow a giant hole in the state budget and rip $7 billion in tax credits from families who have been getting them to help make health insurance more affordable.  It’s wrong and it’s mean and we must do everything we can to stop it.”

The cuts to Medicaid would place a permanent cap on the growth in federal Medicaid funding that would threaten the health care of 1.6 million consumers, mostly seniors and people with disabilities in long-term care, as well as children.  Cuts would likely force New Jersey to abandon the Medicaid Expansion that helps 562,000 adults who mostly work in near minimum wage jobs.

The unprecedented loss of $28 billion in federal funds over ten years in Medicaid and premium subsidies would create a state budget crisis and cause the staggering loss of about 54,000 jobs.  Those who benefit would be the wealthiest New Jerseyans who would receive $13 billion in tax credits over ten years.

Senator Joseph Vitale, New Jersey State Senator, and Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, said, “It cannot be overstated how devastating this bill would be for New Jersey.  It would result in half a million people losing coverage and a loss of $28 billion in federal funding over ten years.  Making up that deficit, and finding a way to insure those who will lose coverage, will place a stranglehold on New Jersey’s resources.  This cruel bill takes aim at some of New Jersey’s most vulnerable populations and does nothing to improve coverage, access, or care.  It will leave no space to continue to fight the opioid epidemic, which needs our attention and dedication now more than ever.  From every perspective, this isn’t just bad policy or politics.  It is a death knell for New Jerseyans who enjoyed coverage and care as a result of the ACA and Medicaid Expansion.”

Wayne Wirta, President of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence NJ, agreed that a casualty of GOP efforts to dismantle the ACA would be Governor Christie’s work to stop the drug crisis in NJ.  “Of the recent $127 million increase in funding for addiction and mental health treatment, $100 million came from the Medicaid Expansion.  Medicaid cuts will hamstring our ability to fight this battle.  If services are rolled back or unavailable altogether because the budget cannot sustain them, well…help will not be within reach.  In fact it will be out of reach, inaccessible and unaffordable,” he said, referring to the REACHNJ initiative unveiled by Christie earlier this year.

New Jersey Citizen Action, who since January has been coordinating health care vigils outside of the offices of New Jersey’s Republican Congressmen, is calling on all of the State’s elected officials to oppose the efforts to cut Medicaid.  “They are not only trying to cut health care for almost 2 million people in NJ, but they are trying to do it on a fast-track, with no input and in secret,” said Collinsgru.  “We need our leaders at every level to say, ‘No.  You may not take health care away.’”

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