Despite the human and fiscal harm that would result from repeal, Republicans have pronounced it a priority and on January 4, the Senate took an initial step toward that goal, approving a budget resolution that would clear the way for such legislation. The House is expected to follow suit next week.
In its last frenzied voting session before the end-of-year break, the New Jersey Legislature passed a resolution that calls on Congress not to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, also commonly referred to as Obamacare. The complete text of Assembly Concurrent Resolution 222 can be found here.
The ACA, the most significant government overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system in the more than 50 years since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, is under serious threat from the incoming administration of President-Elect Donald Trump, who vowed during his campaign to repeal it.
His nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services is Rep. Tom Price, a Georgia Republican and avowed ACA opponent, who has sought in the past to repeal the law and replace it with tax credits and expanded health savings accounts
Since the ACA took effect in 2010, the law has enabled as many as 20 million Americans to obtain health insurance through the subsidized marketplace it created and its expansion of Medicaid. Many more have benefited from the elimination of annual and lifetime limits on coverage and of barriers to care based on pre-existing conditions.
On top of that, the ACA required preventive services, such as immunizations and screenings, to be free of charge to consumers and enabled millions of young adults to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26. Its cost control provisions have helped slow the rate of health care cost increases.
The Effect of Repeal on the State of New Jersey
In New Jersey alone, hundreds of thousands of people have gained coverage and millions of others have benefited from strengthened coverage.
Repeal would not only deprive millions of their coverage but would carry a high economic price tag, according to a report released on January 4 by The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan nonprofit whose stated mission is “educating the public on issues with significant fiscal policy impact.” Utilizing Congressional Budget Office figures, the Committee calculated that a full repeal could cost as much as $350 billion through 2027. The money saved by the federal government on coverage subsidies and Medicaid expansion would be more than offset by the loss of various ACA-created taxes and fees, including insurance mandate penalties, as well as the reversal of savings on Medicare and Medicaid.
The New Jersey resolution did not draw much notice when it passed on December 19 because attention was focused on two other contentious pieces of legislation. One would have enabled Governor Chris Christie to profit from a book deal while still in office by removing strictures on outside income and the other would strike a serious blow to the state’s newspapers–and by extension, government accountability–by allowing legal notices to be posted on government websites rather than in newspapers, as is now required. Both of those bills failed, fortunately, in the face of public outcry.
The resolution states: “The Congress and President of the United States are respectfully urged not to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and to ensure that any revisions or modifications to the law adequately maintain continuing health coverage for those individuals who would otherwise lose their health benefits upon repeal and preserve the significant gains that have been realized through the law in the years following its enactment.”
In a party-line vote, it was approved 46-30 in the Assembly and 22-14 in the Senate.
It was to be filed with the Secretary of State and transmitted by the Clerk of the Assembly or Secretary of the Senate to House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and to every member of the New Jersey Congressional delegation.
New Jersey is not alone in pushing back against a repeal.
The Democratic Governors Association, whose members include Andrew Cuomo of New York, Dan Malloy of Connecticut, Terry McAuliffe of Virginia and Kate Brown of Oregon, conveyed a similar message to Ryan and McConnell in this December 21 letter.
And on December 28, three leading Democrats—Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Chuck Schumer of New York, along with Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, circulated this Dear Colleague letter designating January 15 a day of action to oppose repeal of the ACA along with anticipated attacks on Medicare and Medicaid.
Image via NBC.