Menendez Weighs in on ‘Devastating’ Senate Health Care Bill

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez Alyana Alfaro for Observer

NEWARK- U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is staunchly opposed to the bill Senate Republicans released on Thursday as part of the GOP effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act; he claims that that the bill will “endanger American lives” if it is signed into law by President Donald Trump.

“For years, Republicans railed against the Affordable Care Act and claimed that they would repeal and replace it with something better,” Menendez said on Friday. “The only people who are better off under their bill are millionaires and health insurance companies.”

Menendez said that the wealthiest Americans will get a tax cut under the Senate legislation, paid for by “taking health care away from those who need it most.” He said that the new plan will give Americans less comprehensive health care coverage and estimates that the bill will increase deductibles, defund Planned Parenthood, impose a “crushing age tax” on middle age Americans, and rollback safeguards to prevent lifetime insurance limits.

The Senate health care bill has some differences from the American Health Care Act that passed the House last month on a party-line vote without any support from Democrats. The Senate bill will begin to rollback Medicaid expansion in 2021 and allow states to opt for waivers for essential health benefits.

While Senators have been working on the legislation since the AHCA passed the House, Democrats including Menendez have taken issue with the “secretive” nature by which the bill was drafted.

“When you are doing something good, you want everyone to know,” Menendez said. “When you are doing something bad, you want to hide. While we are still waiting for final numbers, every indication is that the plan unveiled by Senate Republicans will be even more devastating.”

Menendez gave his remarks at the Newark Community Health Center, a federally-funded health clinic where over 60 percent of patients rely on Medicaid to fund treatment.

“We have to send the message to our elected officials and we depend on our elected officials to champion our cause in Washington,” said Pamela Clarke, the health center’s CEO. She said that a loss in federal funding could be detrimental to patients who rely on health care services including dentistry, OB/GYN, and pediatric medicine.

Elaine Stuart’s daughter, Laurie, is a 47-year-old living in a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. She said that the Affordable Care Act is critical to getting her daughter the care she needs. According to Stuart, Menendez’s leadership is important when fighting for those like he daughter, especially in the face of uncertainty about the impact provisions of GOP health care legislation could have on certain services.

“She has been living in a group home for 21 years, all their funding comes from Medicaid,” Stuart said. “All her medication is covered through Medicaid. I can’t even begin to tell you what it would be like if the funding wasn’t there.”

The Congressional Budget Office has yet to release estimates on the Senate health care bill. The CBO estimates that the House bill would leave 23 million more Americans without health insurance but cut the federal deficit by $110 billion over 10 years.