POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Menendez: Senate health care bill ‘devastating’ for NJ Medicaid recipients

By Brenda Flanagan
Correspondent

“Page by page, this Republican plan forces Americans to pay more for less, less comprehensive health care coverage,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.

Menendez said the Senate’s bill to repeal Obamacare could ultimately slash $30 billion in Medicaid funding in New Jersey, where more than a half-million people enrolled under Medicaid expansion could lose coverage. He said it only benefits millionaires.

“Every indication suggests that the plan unveiled by Senate Republicans yesterday will be even more devastating to New Jersey than the mean-spirited unpopular bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year. If President Trump thought the health care bill in the House was mean, I can tell you that the Senate Republican plan is downright nasty,” Menendez said.

Menendez held a news conference at Newark Community Health Centers where 53 percent of patients are on Medicaid. Elaine Rodriguez spoke for many parents saying her disabled daughter, Leandra, depends on Medicaid for medicine and oxygen.

“Without insurance I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have no idea what’s going to happen. It’s really scary. She’s going to die, it’s a reality. Without medications, my daughter is going to die,” Rodriguez said.

But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced this health care bill as a Republican promise to repeal Obamacare — finally kept.

“Policies contained in the discussion draft will repeal the individual mandate so Americans are no longer forced to buy insurance they don’t need or can’t afford,” McConnell said.

The Republican Senate health care proposal would:

– Gives each state a fixed amount of Medicaid funding, forcing states to make cuts when money runs out.

– Eliminates most of the Obamacare tax increases.

– Protects those with pre-existing conditions from getting charged more, but their coverage could be reduced.

– Allows kids to stay on parents’ policies until age 26

– Requires older people to pay a greater share of their income for insurance.

– Restricts subsidies that help lower-income families afford premiums.

Five Republican senators — including Ted Cruz — threatened ‘NO’ votes.

“I want to get to yes, and the way to get to yes is to fix the underlying problems. Lower premiums and I will happily be part of it,” Cruz said.

“We cannot support the current bill. We’re open to negotiation, but we want the bill to look more like a repeal,” said Sen. Rand Paul.

The president, who said he wanted the Senate bill to have more heart, predicted eventual success.

“I think that they’ll probably get there, we’ll have to see,” President Trump said. “You know, health care is a very difficult situation.”

Difficult, because several hospital and medical associations and the AARP also oppose the bill. Controversial, because it defunds Planned Parenthood for a year and could also gut programs to treat opioid addiction — a cause championed by Gov. Chris Christie. Maria Sanchez gets treatment for drug addiction through Medicaid.

“They have helped me a whole lot. Where are we going to go when they close that? We’re going to end up right back on the street. I don’t want that life no more,” Sanchez said.

Gov. Christie’s spokesman has said he will not comment on this pending health care legislation, that the process of finalizing a bill is a long one. But the end may be in sight: Sen McConnell has said he could call for a vote on the bill next week.