HEALTH

Six-Year Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

Uma Mena’s son Addy was born prematurely and developed a rare form of anemia. He needed complex care, just as his father lost an IT contract and the health insurance that went with it.

“Fortunately for us, the ACA was kicking in and we were able to find this insurance plan from Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey. We are so grateful and thankful for this insurance,” Mena said.

Six years ago today, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act.

At PSE&G Children’s Specialized Hospital this morning in New Brunswick, legislators and advocates gathered to celebrate.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director Jackie Cornell-Bechelli said 20 million Americans have gained coverage through what’s come to be known as Obamacare, leaving 10 to 13 million Americans still uncovered.

“Here in New Jersey we have seen tremendous strides. Thanks to Medicaid expansion we now have close to half a million New Jerseyans now on Medicaid that were not previously, and we also have 288,000 consumers enrolled in the marketplace plans,” Cornell-Bechelli said.

Health plans under Obamacare can cost as little as $75 a month, the Department says, after tax incentives and subsidies are taken into account.

Assembly Health Committee Chairman Herb Conaway, a Democrat and a practicing physician, says he divides the recent period into Before ACA and After ACA.

“After the ACA and dealing with the people in my clinic, all of a sudden, with insurance, I have access to a large armamentarium of chemotherapeutics and others that I can provide to the patient, that wasn’t available to me before the ACA,” he said.

Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare if they win the White House this fall.

“We are going to repeal Obamacare. We are going to repeal Obamacare. We are going to replace Obamacare with something so much better,” said Donald Trump.

“We have seen now in six years of Obamacare that it’s been a disaster,” said Ted Cruz.

“With Obamacare, I’ve not only sued the administration, I did not set up an exchange and he knows that I’m not for Obamacare, never have been,” said John Kasich.

“They’re just lying or they’re nuts,” said Sen. Joe Vitale.

Senate Health Committee Chairman Vitale, a Democrat, says the Republicans were not challenged enough on the issue.

“No one said, well you want to repeal Obamacare? How? Are you going to yank it away from millions of people on day one and they’re in the middle of a course of treatment for cancer and they no longer have coverage and are going to pay cash out of their pocket? It’s just crazy. It’s really irresponsible,” he said.

“Twenty million people can’t be wrong. There are now 20 million people across this country, almost a million of them in New Jersey who know have coverage thanks to Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act,” Cornell- Bechelli said.

Regardless of which party wins the presidential election, the Supreme Court has twice upheld the Affordable Care Act. Supporters here said that means it’s here to stay.