By Brenda Flanagan
Opponents of the health care reform measure passed by the House say the bill’s so-called score — just released by the Congressional Budget Office — confirms their worst fears. It forecasts 14 million people could lose coverage by next year, 23 million by 2026. Chiarra D’Agostino has stage 4 breast cancer.
“It sounds like a lot of people aren’t going to be covered under this because a lot of people have pre-existing conditions, so it sounds deadly,” D’Agostino said.
D’Agostino lives in Montclair. She fears that under the American Health Care Act cancer patients could end up in new, high-risk pools with a grim prognosis.
She said, “I think a lot of us will go into major debt and a lot of us will probably die earlier than expected.”
The CBO bill score also projects premium hikes that hit older Americans hard. For someone aged 64 who earns a modest $26,500 a year, rates could soar from $1,700 to $13,600 by 2026. Insurers could also exclude certain benefits, and that’s critical for Sharron Greenberg of Toms River who pays $630 a month.
“For instance, prescriptions in my case, if that was not included in an insurance plan, I wouldn’t be able to afford my prescriptions and I may as well not have insurance at that rate,” said Gereenberg.
Critics in Congress say the score pinpoints where Jersey could lose.
“Insurers can charge whatever they want and they tend to charge more for people who are older, who have pre-existing conditions, who have disabilities,” said Rep. Frank Pallone.
“All that we’ve fought for in terms of mental health health, for instance, as being one of our essential, essential benefits from the ACA, for maternity leave, all of these things are going to cost much more,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell.
“The system needs further reform,” said Rep. Leonard Lance. “I simply don’t think the bill that passed the House is likely to do that. And I do not think the Senate of the United States will take up the bill from the House. I think the Senate will do its own work in this regard.”
The House bill slashes Medicaid funding by more than $800 billion, which the CBO score indicates, could have dire consequences in New Jersey where more than a half-million people acquired health care through Obamacare’s expanded Medicaid coverage.
“New Jersey currently gets about $10 billion a year in Medicaid funding. We can’t afford to lose any of that. The state doesn’t have the resources to make up the difference. This is really the federal government passing the buck to states and it’s incredibly irresponsible,” Whiten said.
But proponents — like Speaker Paul Ryan — continue to argue the bill will save most Americans from paying more under Obamacare.
“This law is in the middle of a collapse. We need to bring down the cost of coverage and we need to revitalize the market so that people have real choices and real access to affordable health care. That’s what our plan will do,” Ryan said.
3rd District Congressman Tom MacArthur, the architect of the amendment which made the bill’s passage possible in the House, stated, “…they [CBO] are clearly not prophets. While CBO projections on enrollment numbers remain in doubt, it’s clear that the MacArthur Amendment will bring down premiums and make health care more affordable.”
The measure now heads to the Senate, where its CBO score evoked scathing reviews from both sides of the aisle.
“This is an unacceptable bill. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it never, ever becomes law,” said Sen. Cory Booker.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says his goal is to get to 50 ‘yes’ votes. New Jersey’s two senators will likely not be among them.