NJ Assembly Urges Congress to Reject AHCA

The Assembly chamber in the New Jersey statehouse. Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

A resolution urging the U.S. Senate to reject a Republican rewrite of Obamacare passed the New Jersey General Assembly 55-16 with three abstentions on Monday.

Sponsored by all the Democrats in the chamber, the largely symbolic resolution says President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act “established a comprehensive series of health insurance reforms designed to make universal, quality, affordable health coverage available to all Americans while ending certain common health insurance industry practices that limited access to coverage.”

A few Republican lawmakers voted in favor of the resolution.

The U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month passed sweeping legislation that would repeal and replace key provisions under Obamacare, including an estimated $880 billion in cuts to Medicaid through 2026, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office of an earlier draft of the bill.

Gov. Chris Christie said at a news conference Monday that he was concerned about the Medicaid cuts in the bill. “Eight hundred billion is a lot of money,” he said.

Critics have sounded the alarm. New Jersey is a Medicaid-dependent state and the Republican plan — known as the American Health Care Act — would eliminate coverage for an estimated 500,000 state residents and 24 million nationwide.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) said that under Obamacare, New Jersey saved $400 million from payments to hospitals due to an expansion of Medicaid that Christie accepted in 2013. He said that if the AHCA becomes law of the land, those gains are “likely to be erased.”

“If enacted, the AHCA will eliminate health security for millions of Americans, particularly older adults, women, and individuals with pre-existing conditions,” Prieto said in a statement. “The United States Senate has both the opportunity and the responsibility to stop this disastrous legislation from becoming law.”

New Jersey’s own Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3) was one of the primary authors of an amendment that earned the bill enough support from Republicans to get it through the House. He has defended the plan through weeks of heated criticism, arguing that although some states would be allowed to waive community-rating requirements for insurers — opening the door to higher costs for consumers with pre-existing conditions — the AHCA also includes $138 billion for states to set up “high-risk pools” to cover those cases.

Reform is badly needed because insurers have been fleeing new online marketplaces established under Obamacare and premiums have been skyrocketing, MacArthur adds.

The Assembly resolution says that the AHCA “would replace coverage protections for people with pre-existing conditions with the same high risk pools that failed in the past” and that “although the AHCA would provide 250 New Jersey millionaires with a federal tax break averaging $57,000 per year, it is expected to increase federal taxes by 30 percent for middle and lower income New Jerseyans.”

NJ Assembly Urges Congress to Reject AHCA