REFUSAL TO EXPAND MEDICAID KILLED 15,000+, NEW STUDY FINDS

More than 20 U.S. state governments betrayed the health and well-being of their residents five years ago when they decided against expanding Medicaid pursuant to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka Obamacare. Now, thanks to a just published study, we have a good idea of the human cost: nearly 16,000 deaths over the four-year period from January 2014, when the expansion initially took effect, through the end of 2017.

The study, released on July 21, looked at what would have occurred if Medicaid had been expanded nationwide in 2014. Based on the differences in mortality between states that expanded and those that didn’t, the study found that 15,600 deaths in the non-expansion states would have been prevented if those states too had expanded Medicaid. Continue reading REFUSAL TO EXPAND MEDICAID KILLED 15,000+, NEW STUDY FINDS

PROTECTIONS AGAINST FORFEITURE, FORECLOSURE, AND RETIREMENT SAVINGS GAP ADVANCE IN LEGISLATURE

Legislation that made it through various committees on February 7 would make New Jersey a better and fairer place, enhancing the financial security of retirees, helping people prevent the loss of their homes through foreclosure, and protecting against abusive civil asset forfeitures.

I have written about the Secure Choice Act before, which would establish a state-run retirement savings plan for people whose employers do not offer one. The legislation is in response to studies showing that most people do not save enough on their own for retirement, even though Social Security payments are not enough for seniors to live on—the so-called “retirement savings gap.” Continue reading PROTECTIONS AGAINST FORFEITURE, FORECLOSURE, AND RETIREMENT SAVINGS GAP ADVANCE IN LEGISLATURE

ACLU REPORT HIGHLIGHTS FORFEITURE FLAWS

A new report from the New Jersey affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union takes a good, hard look at civil asset forfeiture and concludes that it is prone to widespread abuse and disproportionately used against people of color.

Civil asset forfeiture, also known as civil forfeiture, and sometimes disparagingly referred to as “policing for profit” is a legal process by which law enforcement officers take people’s property away from them on mere suspicion of a crime without necessarily arresting them or bringing charges. The statutes that govern it are N.J.S.A. 2C:64-1 et seq.

The textbook case of civil forfeiture is the seizure of illegal narcotics from suspected drug dealers, as well as cash believed to have been used in or earned from narcotics transactions.

But forfeiture can involve a wide range of assets, many of which are far more innocuous. Cars, boats, houses, jewelry, art, electronics – just about anything can be seized. The report lists baseball cards, a bicycle, an iPod, shoes and laptops, among other items. Continue reading ACLU REPORT HIGHLIGHTS FORFEITURE FLAWS

SUCCESS IN NJ PUSHBACK ON EFFORTS TO DESTROY ACA

Here is a bit of great news I am happy to share.

New Jersey, whose individual health insurance market was one of the nation’s most expensive a few years ago will be one of the cheapest in 2019, according to a recent report from New Jersey Policy Perspective.  We have fallen from paying the ninth highest premiums in 2014 to 47th highest in 2019.  Indiana ($339), Massachusetts ($332) and Minnesota ($326) will be the only states paying less than New Jersey’s $352 per month.

That compares with a national average of $477 and neighboring state averages of  $684, $569, and $484, in Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania, respectively.

The numbers are from Kaiser Family Foundation data tracking premium costs in every state from 2014 to 2019. During that period, New Jersey premiums rose from $323 in 2014 to a high of $413 last year.

For a family of four opting for the least costly silver plan, that translates to an annual savings of $3,264 (from $15,132 down to $11,868). Comparable figures for a 60 year old are a $1,944 drop (from $10,152 to $8,208) and for a 27 year old, a $792 decrease (from  $3,912 to $3,120).

The price drop is all the more surprising and welcome in the face of ongoing efforts by the Trump Administration and the GOP-led Congress to dismantle and undermine the Affordable Care Act. Their efforts have included repeal of the individual mandate, discontinuation of certain subsidies, shortened enrollment periods, and other actions that have created uncertainty in the market that has itself driven up the cost of policies.

New Jersey has pushed back in various ways, including enacting laws that created a state mandate and established a reinsurance program and the launch of a Get Covered campaign. It is working!

We are now more than halfway through the sign-up period which began on November 1 and ends December 15. If you obtain your healthcare through the individual market, DO NOT DELAY. And make sure others do not either, by spreading the word.

Read the New Jersey Policy Perspective article on the falling premiums here.

HEALTH CARE IS AT STAKE THIS ELECTION DAY

As we approach the November 6 election date, here is something to help you focus on what is at stake.

If Republican majorities survive in both houses of Congress, there is a real possibility  that they will repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka ACA aka Obamacare). The last major effort at repeal fell short because of a dramatic “no” vote from Senator John McCain, whose death in August means he is no longer around to save the day

Republicans would likely be emboldened to try again if they hold onto power in one or both houses of Congress and if they succeed, it would strip health care from an estimated 800,000 New Jersey residents, according to a report released today by New Jersey Policy Perspective, a progressive think tank focused on issues that impact this state.

Most of those would be the roughly half million people who benefited from New Jersey’s expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, with the rest consisting of those who bought policies on the individual market.

In addition, the elimination of the ACA’s protections for people with preexisting conditions would impact more than 3.8 million people, about 43% of New Jersey residents, says the report.

And the nearly 700,000 people who still lack health insurance would probably lose any hope of obtaining it.

Further, proposed cutbacks in Medicare to pay for last year’s tax cuts would put health coverage at risk for 1.5 million more New Jerseyans.

Read the report and get out there next Tuesday to protect health care!

MEASURE WILL HELP PLUG RETIREMENT SAVINGS “GAP”

State legislation to create a retirement savings program for private sector workers took a step forward last week.

On October 15, the New Jersey Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee approved A-4134, the Secure Choice Savings Program Act, by a vote of  8-to-3, with 2 committee members not voting.

We all know that Social Security, as helpful and necessary as it is, is not enough for seniors to live on. According to figures from AARP (formerly American Association of Retired Persons), the average monthly Social Security retirement benefit in New Jersey is $1,377/month. Just try living on that in this state, where the average monthly rental for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,199 per month, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. With utilities, food, clothing, medical expenses and other expenses, the math simply does not add up.  Continue reading MEASURE WILL HELP PLUG RETIREMENT SAVINGS “GAP”

LEGISLATION WOULD PROTECT PATIENTS FROM DEBT COLLECTORS

New Jersey residents faced with medical bills they cannot afford to pay would obtain some respite under newly proposed legislation.

A-4335, would require  medical providers to wait at least 90 days after the initial billing date before they sic a debt collector or lawyer on a patient.

Continue reading LEGISLATION WOULD PROTECT PATIENTS FROM DEBT COLLECTORS