By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in New Jersey to raise awareness of the Affordable Care Act.
A six-month open enrollment period begins Oct. 1, and the new law itself takes effect Jan. 1.
“What we know here in New Jersey is about 900,000 residents will be eligible for benefits. In New York, we’re talking about 2 million people. In Connecticut, about 245,000,” Sebelius said.
She was at a Rite Aid pharmacy in Hoboken, where the corporate CEO announced his company will cooperate in getting the word out.
“Starting on Oct. 1, independent, licensed insurance agents will be available in nearly 2,000 of our stores chain-wide for free consultations with our customers,” said Rite Aid Chairman and CEO John Stanley.
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez spoke of the new law as a godsend.
“Imagine going to sleep at night knowing that you have no health care coverage and knowing that an illness could put you, totally having lost everything you’ve worked for in your life,” Menendez said.
“The Obamacare plan is a failed plan,” said Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan who set up across the street from the Rite Aid to argue that companies like Time Warner, Delta Airlines, IBM and UPS are dumping their retirees into the new government-run marketplace.
“The stories are coming out one right after the other. Senior citizens who’ve earned their retirement health care plans are being thrown off their plans and into the uncertainty of the health care exchanges,” Lonegan said.
From Hoboken, Sebelius went to University Hospital in Newark for a meeting with stakeholders — among them lieutenant governor candidate Milly Silva, Sen. Nia Gill, Hospital Association President Betsy Ryan — where Sebelius responded to a Lonegan plea to delay the individual mandate.
“Just delay it for one year, the way Obama delayed the employer mandate, would save taxpayers $35 billion,” Lonegan said.
“I’m certain that delaying that one year, two years, however many years, certainly on one hand saves some money for the government. On the other hand, it costs individuals enormous amounts of money in personal bankruptcy,” Sebelius said.
What was said today reflects what’s been argued about Obamacare almost since its beginning — the Obama administration welcoming it as a landmark reform, Republicans like Lonegan painting it as a nightmare being rolled out in slow motion.