Government

Hunterdon Freeholders Decline to Oppose Obamacare Repeal

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No one spoke in favor of repealing Obamacare at yesterday's Hunterdon Freeholder meeting. Credits: Curtis Leeds
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Hunterdon County Freeholder Director John Lanza Credits: Curtis Leeds / TAPinto Flemington-Raritan file photo
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FLEMINGTON, NJ – County Freeholders yesterday declined requests that they approve a resolution asking Congress to not repeal Obamacare “without adequately replacing it at the same time.”

Freeholder Director John Lanza said at the start of yesterday’s regular Freeholder meeting that he’d received 15 to 20 emails on the topic.

The public portion of Freeholder meetings often last less than 30 minutes. But yesterday, the Freeholders spent longer than that hearing comments from residents seeking the resolution.

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Florence Zarate of Tewksbury told Freeholders that while she can afford possible changes in healthcare insurance rules, “I am concerned for the 47,000-plus people within Hunterdon County that won’t be able to.”

“I know Obamacare is not perfect. I know there are many people who are not doing well under it. We know that,” said Yvonne Shepard of Franklin (Hunterdon County), who added that she doesn’t participate in Obamacare. “I say: Don’t throw away the baby with the bathwater. I say fix it.”

She called for Congress to fix the healthcare issue “progressively” rather than repeal it.

Shepard challenged Freeholders to consider, “If you or your loved ones had to depend on the healthcare provided by Trumpcare, how would you feel if you had to look in the eye of your children and say to them, ‘I cannot help you because our government has turned its back to us.’”

“I’m concerned that the Republican plan put forward is more expensive and covers fewer people,” said Gordon Sell of Readington. He asked Freeholders to “encourage the highers-up to support repairing ACA rather than replacing it.”

Joseph Horgan of Readington said proposed changes to Medicare means that in New Jersey, “We’re going to get hosed ... (Congressman) Leonard Lance has indicated his concern about this particular issue, but he could use a little backup if he’s going to stand up to this.

 “Your statement could help him,” Horgan said.

Marie Corfield of Raritan Township said, “Healthcare is not an entitlement. It’s a human right. Nobody should have to suffer unduly from an illness or other medical issue because they can’t afford healthcare.”

“Every other developed nation in the world offers universal healthcare to their citizens,” Corfield said. Calling the U.S. the “richest country in the world” she said it “should be able to do the same.”

Flemington resident Joey Novick asked Freeholders to consider healthcare a local, non-partisan issue.

“This is not a Democratic or Republican issue,” Novick said. “This is not a conservative or liberal issue. This is a plain moral issue. And for Hunterdon County, this is a financial impact issue.”

Novick cited estimates from the non-profit NJ Policy Perspective that repealing the ACA would cause more than 3,000 seniors and disabled people on Medicare to lose their prescription drug benefits in Hunterdon alone. The same group estimates that changes to federal Medicare funding would result in a loss of more than $3.8 million in Hunterdon each year.

In the Obamacare marketplace, 4,600 county residents would lose coverage and nearly $16 million in funding would be lost, according to NJ Policy Perspective.

The county’s impact from changes to Medicaid would cause 3,400 people to lose coverage and $18.5 million in lost coverage, the report states about the impact here.

“Support of this resolution would go a long way to help us get on the right direction nationally,” Novick said.

 “This is just my opinion and it’s not going to be particularly popular,” Lanza said. Although everyone understands the importance of healthcare, “I’m a county freeholder and I get hired by the public to deal with county issues. This is a federal issue.”

Lanza said he has “complete confidence” that Rep. Lance has “taken all of these concerns to heart. He’s thinking about them. He’s weighing them ... he’s going to do what he thinks is the right thing.

Lanza said he prefers to “leave it to someone who is much more knowledgeable about the ins and outs of this policy. I haven’t read this bill. I couldn’t give an educated opinion about this specific legislation one way or the other. It’s just not what I do. I’m here with my colleagues trying to run this county.”

Any resolution the Freeholders might approve would not “carry any weight at all,” Lanza said, adding that he couldn’t recall the Freeholders board ever passing resolution on a federal issue.

“It’s just not in our purview,” Lanza said.

But Lanza praised the public conversation.

“What’s good about this discussion is that this crowd here expressed some heartfelt views ... that we can all either agree or disagree about things without ascribing bad intent. That’s something that is a lot better than on the scene in Washington today or Trenton,” he said.

Lanza also set limits on the conversation. He wouldn’t answer a question posed by both Novick and Raritan Township resident Barbara Sachau about the details of the Freeholders' healthcare insurance as part of their pay from the county.

“This is a comment period,” Lanza said.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify Lanza's response to questions about Freeholders' healthcare insurance.

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