POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

NJ could lose $3.9B in health care funding if Graham-Cassidy bill passes

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Gov. Chris Christie didn’t speak out against prior efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, but on Wednesday he bucked the White House and strongly condemned the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill, a partisan measure some analysts say could cost New Jersey $3.9 billion in lost federal health funding.

“Yeah, I don’t support it because it’s bad for New Jersey,” said Christie. “I can’t support a bill that takes $3.9 billion away from the people in the state of New Jersey. I think there are other ways to deal with this. I think there are better ways to deal with it. I’ve been lobbied significantly to be supportive of it. But I can’t be supportive of it, and I’m not.”

The bill, which was hastily written by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, would reshape health care by converting all federal health insurance funding into block grants to individual states. Some analysts suggest Graham-Cassidy could deprive 900,000 New Jersey residents of health care coverage.

“This bill would be a disaster for our state. It has the worst elements of all the previous bills they tried to get through Congress,” said New Jersey Policy Perspective Health Policy Director Ray Castro.

Christie pointed to political motivations, noting Graham-Cassidy strips federal funding from 31 states, including New Jersey, which expanded Medicaid coverage under Obamacare. The new bill would redistribute that money to 19 mostly-red states that didn’t.

“I know this comes from a place where the folks who didn’t expand now want some of that money back. But they chose not to expand at the time,” he said.

Graham-Cassidy would allow insurers to charge more to cover pre-existing conditions and opioid addiction treatment, like the program at the Center for Great Expectations in Somerset, which offers long-term residential counseling for pregnant women, moms and their kids. It’s one of 25 addiction treatment initiatives the governor wants to expand.

“It’s 10,000 times better than anywhere I’ve ever been. This really is a one-of-a-kind program,” said Center for Great Expectations client Morgan.

“The only thing you owe to us is the ability someday to pay it forward,” said Christie.

Great Expectations depends on federal grants and Medicaid, both challenged if Graham-Cassidy passes. New Jersey’s two senators will vote “no.” Sen. Bob Menendez will reportedly miss his own corruption trial in Newark to be present, if necessary, when the bill is posted for a vote next week.

“Medicaid as we know it would end under Graham-Cassidy because they move from an entitlement to a block grant, which simply means whatever money is available in the block grant, if it’s enough to go around, great. And if not, you’re out of luck,” said Menendez.

Graham-Cassidy is on a tight deadline. Republicans have until Sept. 30 to pass it with just 50 votes, under budget reconciliation rules.