NJ Democrats make coverage for preexisting conditions an election issue

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

On day one of open enrollment, Brenda Lopez sought help to sign up for Obamacare.

“I’m going to do my best to see what I could afford,” said Lopez.

She works part-time, has a preexisting condition and hoped a navigator at NJ Citizen Action could help her find affordable coverage. “I don’t know. I hope they give me cheap insurance — you know, just for an emergency like I had,” she said.

Health care is a very personal issue for Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman right now. “They really removed the cancer node with surgery back in August. So, I’m just plowing through the chemo now,” Watson Coleman said.

Watson Coleman has been getting chemo for lung cancer — the same disease that killed her mom, she explained. She spoke today during a campaign event for Democrats at RWJ University Hospital, supporting the Affordable Care Act. 3.8 million people in NJ have preexisting conditions.

“I’m a living example right now of the importance of having health care, and the importance of having access to doctors at a very early stage in what could’ve been a very, very serious issue,” said Rep. Watson Coleman.

“The Administration’s doing everything it can to bring us back to a day when health insurance companies got to pick and choose who was worthy of receiving care, and who wasn’t worth it at all,” said Sen. Bob Menendez. “This is serious stuff. The Administration’s decision to abandon people with preexisting conditions just isn’t a flip-flop. It’s a broken promise.”

A new report by Congressional Democratic staffers predicted the Trump Administration’s legal assault against coverage for preexisting conditions could cause as many as 352,000 people in New Jersey to “… lose federal protection against coverage denials or premium increases, as a result of their preexisting conditions, gender or age …”

“Basically it would become unaffordable for many New Jerseyans who right now have a guarantee of protection for that,” said Ray Castro director of health policy at NJ Policy Perspective.

Three-quarters of people surveyed in a September poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation said it’s vital that coverage for people with preexisting conditions should remain law. Some GOP candidates are saying they’ll support coverage, despite supporting Trump.

“We should not make any changes to Medicare or Medicaid to protect the most vulnerable people in our society, we need to ensure their benefits are preserved, and we absolutely must protect people with preexisting conditions,” said Bob Hugin, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, at the recent NJTV Senate debate.

The Murphy Administration launched a website called GetCovered.nj.gov — and provided $375K for five community organizations to help people navigate ACA enrollment. This, after the Trump Administration chopped federal funding for navigators by 79 percent and cut advertising by 90 percent. Brenda Lopez succeeded — she texted us. She found a plan she can afford.

The ACA open enrollment period runs through December 15. The Democrats on the campaign trail say there’s another important deadline: November 6. Election Day.