Hugin presents health care plan, Menendez pushes back

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

If you’re talking to Bob Hugin, don’t use the terms Obamacare or Trumpcare. They are too political, he says, too partisan.

“I actually do not like people using the term of a person’s name attaching it to health care. I think it demeans the importance of health care,” Hugin said.

At a medical arts building in Glen Ridge, Hugin held a roundtable with health care practitioners. He said the aging of the population is putting great strains on the health care system, especially end-of-life care. He had advice for all employers who cover their workers.

“I think all of us should say, if we help provide health care for someone, we should demand that they have an end-of-life directive. Not to tell them what the end-of-life directive should say, whatever your family and moral, religious, personal views are for the end of life, you should be able to have the end of life that you determine is appropriate to you. But we spend billions, multiple billions of dollars a year on health care at the end of people’s lives that they don’t want,” he said.

He gave the example of his 98-year old mother.

“She says the day that I can’t get out of bed myself, I don’t want to live,” Hugin said.

Hugin said today’s health care system is 70 years old. It needs more wellness and prevention approaches, more outcomes-based compensation and more use of information technology, he said.

He partially endorsed the Affordable Care Act, saying it has attributes and flaws.

“I could not envision any changes to our health care system today that would not protect patients with pre-existing conditions. I think that has to be a fundamental tenet of everything we do as we advance health care reform,” he said.

Hugin spent years building up Celgene, a Summit-based pharmaceutical company. He is spending millions of his own dollars on this campaign for U.S. Senate.

His opponent is incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, whose campaign responded Wednesday by sending a video filmed last year at the White House.

“We shared one thing also about how positive the president is and how constructive we are about reforming health care. And the changes that he’s proposing are ones that I think are going to be great for the country and for consumers to get better health care, more access,” the video shows Hugin saying.

In a written statement, the communications director for Menendez’s campaign, Steve Sandberg, said, “Instead of reining in the high cost of prescription drugs, Hugin wants to encourage more patients to choose death over end of life care to save money.”

Hugin also said that Medicaid, the program for the poor, is too centralized.

“All states are different. Washington D.C. does not have all the answers on how an individual state or community should best care for the most vulnerable people in their society. And we should encourage 50 centers of innovation and experimentation across the country in each state to find out what’s the best way to care for the most vulnerable people to give them the best outcomes in their life at the lowest cost,” Hugin said.

He suggested health care reform is his specialty.

“I spent nearly 20 years in biotech and 11 years on the board of Atlantic Health, one of the more forward-looking health care systems in our state,” Hugin said. “I promise you in January when I go to Washington, this is going to be one of my highest priorities, to be a leader in bringing people together.”

The idea was to show that Hugin has an understanding of health care after his years in the pharmaceutical industry. As one participant said, “He must be elected. He’s an expert.”