650K N.J. residents could lose health coverage under Obamacare vote by GOP

By Jonathan D. Salant | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on January 06, 2016

Jessica Fernandez told how she obtained insurance a year ago, went to a doctor and learned she had crohn's disease.

 

WASHINGTON — U.S. House Republicans, including all six from New Jersey, voted Wednesday to repeal the Affordable Care Act, an action that would threaten health coverage for as many as 650,000 Garden State residents.

Almost 260,000 New Jersey residents signed up for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act's exchanges through Dec. 26, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Many of those residents get subsidies to help them pay for coverage, and that help would be eliminated if the law went away. In addition, Gov. Chris Christie, breaking with most other Republican governors, agreed to expand Medicaid coverage under the law to 390,000 low-income residents.

The 240-181 vote, almost exclusively along party lines, sent the repeal legislation for the first time to President Barack Obama, who has promised to veto it. Just three Republicans and one Democrat, none of them from New Jersey, dissented from their parties' majorities.

The bill would also end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. 

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill in question would reduce the federal deficit by $317.5 billion over the next 10 years. In a separate report, the CBO said a full repeal, including elements not in this legislation, would increase the federal deficit by as much as $353 billion and increase the number of uninsured Americans by 19 million next year alone.

"It's a complete waste of time," said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th Dist.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "There are very few people who want the ACA repealed. It has accomplished the major goal of covering more Americans."

While the House has voted dozens of times to partially or totally repeal the health-care law, Senate Republicans always have failed to get the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation. This time, the Senate took up the repeal under a special procedure to prevent a filibuster, and sent it to the House. 

By taking that route, GOP lawmakers will force Obama to veto the bill and be able to show voters that if they keep them in control of Congress and elect a Republican president in 2017, the Affordable Care Act will be repealed and Planned Parenthood will be defunded.

"Our action here in the House today is an important step toward replacing Obamacare with patient-centric solutions that lower health care costs, protect jobs and allow Americans to keep their doctors and their health care if they like them," said U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th Dist.). 

Five of the six House Democrats from the state opposed against the repeal. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-10th Dist.) did not vote.

While voting numerous times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, congressional Republicans have yet to bring to the floor any alternative to provide insurance to the millions of Americans now receiving coverage under the law.

"Here we are repealing the ACA again for nearly the 62nd time and yet, the House has still not voted on any alternative health care plan," Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-9th Dist.) said on the House floor during the debate. "We have heard repeated promises of a Republican alternative to the ACA and yet nothing has materialized."

The bill marked the latest attempt by congressional Republicans to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood in the wake of heavily edited videos from an anti-abortion group that charge the women's health care provider with selling tissue from aborted fetuses for profit.

Federal law allows providers to charge just enough to recoup the costs of handling and shipping the fetal tissue, which is used in research.

Three congressional investigations have yet to turn up any evidence to support the allegations and a fourth probe under the auspices of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is underway.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that "after watching the horrific videos of Planned Parenthood employees casually discussing the sale of infant organs, we knew something had to be done." 

Majorities of Americans support continued federal funding of Planned Parenthood, according to opinion polls. In a September survey by Quinnipiac University, 52 percent said the group should continue to receive federal support while 41 percent wanted it cut off. 

Before the vote, House Democratic members of the subcommittee decried the GOP actions.

"It's hard to believe Republicans have mothers and wives and sisters and daughters," said Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12th Dist.).

Of the health care services the group provided in 2014, testing or treatment of sexually transmitted diseases accounted for 45 percent and contraception accounted for 31 percent. Abortions accounted for about 3 percent.

The federal funds at risk cover health care costs under Medicaid incurred by low-income women. Planned Parenthood clinics in New Jersey received $5.2 million in federal funds in 2014 and offered health and contraceptive services in 14 of the state's 21 counties.

"The law doesn't allow Medicaid funding for abortions," Pallone said. "All this does is eliminate Medicaid funding for everything else."

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