Groups rally to support the Affordable Care Act

BY Andrew Schmertz, Correspondent |

A campaign-style bus that’s touring the country to rally support for the Affordable Care Act pulled into West Orange on Friday, just one day after the Trump administration announced it was cutting the advertising budget for the ACA by 90 percent.

“It’s a clear attempt to sabotage America’s health care system and you know we know what it’s going to do. It’s going to jack up premiums,” said Ben Wexler-Waite, the spokesperson for the group, Drive For Our Lives.

The bus tour has been through about 30 states. A coalition of progressive groups, including abortion rights activists, have banded together to support the tour’s mission.

“It’s really a way to shine a spotlight on individuals across the country who have benefited from the affordable care and have so much to lose if it goes away,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Though somewhat gimmicky, the bus does draw attention. Members of the Drive For Our Lives group record stories of people who claim Obamacare saved them. Ally Chandra’s son was born with extensive birth defects.

“Our lives were falling apart and we turned to Medicaid. I will never ever forget the feeling of relief sitting across the desk from that woman and realizing because of the ACA and Medicaid expansion here in New Jersey, there was a safety net,” she said.

“We were able to purchase a plan because of the marketplace. They covered the surgeries to remove the cancer in my chest, wall and ovaries. Along with 16 rounds of chemo and 15 rounds of radiation,” said Michelle Ward of Montclair.

The group uses the opportunity to target opponents of the ACA. In this case, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, who was one of two New Jersey Republicans to vote to repeal the law.

The congressman didn’t return our calls for comment, but in May, he told the Morristown patch: “Obamacare is failing to make heath care affordable for New Jersey families facing skyrocketing premiums, souring deductibles, and fewer choices.”

But, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey says parts of the ACA, specifically expanding Medicaid, have bipartisan support in the state.

“Those of us in the New Jersey Legislature do support health care for all. We were able to reach across the aisle and get some of our colleagues to pressure the governor to expand Medicaid services,” said Jasey.

From West Orange the bus goes to New York City, Philadelphia and Washington — in time for when Congress comes back into session.