Government

Guest Column

Menendez Calls for Bipartisan Review of Affordable Care Act

a32521db4fe1d73679a5_menedez__getty_images.jpg
Senator Robert Menendez Credits: gettyimages.com
a32521db4fe1d73679a5_menedez__getty_images.jpg

WASHINGTON, DC - In 2003, when President George Bush and the Republican Congress passed the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, I voted against it. Like most Democrats, I couldn’t support a plan that left millions of seniors – including my mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s – with huge prescription drug bills under what would later become known as the Medicare “donut hole.”

But once Part D became law, Democrats didn’t fight to repeal it. Not even after the program’s disastrous rollout in 2006, when seniors were literally turned away from pharmacies nationwide. Unlike Republicans in Congress, who today remain fixated on destroying the ACA, we didn’t try to defund it, or undermine it in the courts, or smear it for political gain. Nor did President Barack Obama try to sabotage it.

Instead, Democrats made improving a Republican-designed prescription drug program a cornerstone of health care reform. When we finally passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, we included measures to close the Part D “donut hole” – reforms that have since saved New Jersey’s seniors over $1.3 billion, and more than $26 billion for Medicare beneficiaries nationwide.

Sign Up for E-News

For us, the prize wasn’t about destroying a program signed into law by a Republican president. It was about ensuring that America’s seniors never had to choose between eating and refilling their medications. Indeed, Democrats have always been clear about our motivations. We believe that all Americans deserve health care – no matter where they live, how much money they make, or what medical conditions they may have.

However, it remains unclear what Republicans hope to achieve with their vendetta against Obamacare. For seven years, they attacked the ACA for political gain, pledging to repeal and replace it with something better. But the American people overwhelmingly rejected their cruel plan to lavish the top 1 percent with tax cuts they don’t need, paid for by taking health care away from those who need it most.

When their bill was pronounced dead earlier this week, Democrats made clear that our offer for bipartisan cooperation was still alive. Their partisan process failed. We must return to regular order so that committees can do their work, hold public hearings and develop bipartisan solutions to stabilize the private market, lower premiums and reduce costs for everyone.

Unfortunately, Republicans have dug in their heels, rebuffing calls for bipartisanship. If Republican leaders cannot flip enough of their members to support their wildly unpopular plan, this week they will likely vote to repeal the ACA with no replacement at all. This reckless act would strip 32 million Americans of their coverage, double premiums and leave three out of four Americans with just one insurer, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

New Jerseyans would suffer tremendously under an all-out repeal, with nearly 840,000 people losing coverage by 2026. Our state’s budget woes would go from bleak to catastrophic, with federal health funding for New Jersey cut by $4.2 billion each year and 86,000 jobs destroyed. And everyone would lose the ACA’s protections against insurance company abuses, like imposing lifetime limits on care, or dropping coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., second from right, accompanied by, from left, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday. President Trump blasted congressional Democrats and “a few Republicans” over the collapse of the GOP effort to rewrite the Obama health care law. 

It’s time that Republicans drop this destructive repeal effort and pledge to do no harm. No law is perfect – but we don’t need to threaten the financial security of millions of families, bankrupt states by gutting Medicaid, or wreak havoc on our health care sector to address the imperfections. 

As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I’m proud to have helped write the ACA. It took nearly a year of hard work and compromise with both Republicans and Democrats to get it done. At the time, I warned that it didn’t do enough to guarantee affordability, and that not including a public option would drive up costs for consumers. But even with these concerns, I voted for it because I knew it would make a huge difference in people’s lives.

We’ve made historic progress under the ACA, but Democrats know we still face major challenges that demand bipartisan cooperation. America’s health care system is the most innovative in the world; it’s also the most expensive, and lags behind on outcomes. Congress must consult with doctors, economists and industry stakeholders to tackle the tough questions. How do we promote innovation while cutting costs? Or better manage chronic diseases that cost billions each year? Or bring transparency to the system, empower consumers and promote competition?

It’s time for Republicans to build upon our recent gains, not destroy them. Punishing families with higher costs and less coverage by repealing the ACA or sabotaging it administratively is no solution. Industry leaders have confirmed the Trump administration could help them limit premium increases by working to stabilize the marketplace instead of stoking uncertainty.

Confronted with the harsh reality of governing, Republicans must recognize that their actions have real consequences.  Voting to take insurance away from millions of people was easy when President Obama could spare them the consequences of their actions with the stroke of his veto pen.

The time for political games is long over. As the governing party, Republicans are now playing with people’s lives – and the economic future of our country.  It’s time to come together.

Robert Menendez, D-Paramus, is the senior U.S. senator from New Jersey.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - February 21, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

ON THE HIGHWAY - Authorities were frantically looking into a "mystery tar" that appeared suddenly on cars driving along I-295 in South Jersey, causing tires to gel with the road. They quickly realized that a stretch of the highway in Salem County was smeared with liquid asphalt, leaked from a tanker and causing dozens of cars to get ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 20, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

STATEWIDE - Jittery parents are sending their jittery kids to jittery schools this morning, as classes resume after a President's Day weekend filled with wall-to-wall news coverage about gun safety. School districts statewide have been reporting threats - all thankfully not credible - as district leaders are on the highest alert. East Brunswick, for ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 16, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

E STREET - While a tired nation is demanding gun control (yet again), Springsteen guitarist Stevie Van Zandt is having none of it. No stranger to political opinions, the New Jersey icon tweeted "What happened to us? We are averaging 2 school shootings per week AND WE DO NOTHING ABOUT IT!" Many tone-deaf politicians on Capitol Hill ...

The Jaffe Briefing - January 15, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

TRENTON - As state lawmakers are set to announce a bill at 11 a.m. to decriminalize pot - an issue that has consumed the Statehouse -  the Record is reporting on an often-ignored issue: the state's ridiculously antiquated liquor laws. For example, supermarkets in the state can only have up to two liquor licenses, stemming ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 14, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

ON AIR - Gov. Phil Murphy had his very first "Ask the Governor" monthly program last night. He appeared on News 12 New Jersey to field your questions about all things New Jersey. Impossible to recap an hour segment. Of course, we will try: New Jersey should be a better place to retire. The state pension mess will be solved.

The Jaffe Briefing - February 13, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

ON THE RAILS - Perhaps Donald Trump is still ticked that New Jerseyans had no interest in his team, the New Jersey Generals, which played football in the now-defunct USFL. Or, perhaps he is angry we didn't frequent his now-defunct casinos in Atlantic City. Or, perhaps he is seeking revenge for the fact that 546,345 more New Jerseyans voted for ...

Rutgers Union Rally Planned Friday for $15 Minimum Wage

February 21, 2018

New Brunswick, NJ - On Friday, February 23, student groups, a coalition of Rutgers unions, and representatives from campuses across the nation will hold a rally and march on College Avenue to demand a $15 minimum wage.

The action, initiated by the Rutgers chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and the Rutgers American Association of University Professors - American Federation of ...

RU Students Rejoice: Starbucks Reopens at The Yard@College Avenue

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - In what many consider to be the biggest news of the day on the Rutgers University campus, the Starbucks at The Yard@College Avenue has once again reopened.

Officials with the New Brunswick Development Corp. reported this morning that the popular coffeehouse is open "for good."

The Starbucks at The Yard@College Avenue, located at the corner of College ...

Don’t Blame Hurricanes for Most Big Storm Surges in Northeast

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Hurricanes spawn most of the largest storm surges in the northeastern U.S., right? Wrong, according to a study by Rutgers University–New Brunswick scientists.

Extratropical cyclones, including nor’easters and other non-tropical storms, generate most of the large storm surges in the Northeast, according to the study in the Journal of ...

Valeski: Placing Police Officers in Schools was Planned for Two Years

February 21, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - In the midst of a media firestorm Tuesday, Dr. Victor Valeski, East Brunswick Superintendent of Schools, fielded questions from local and national journalists regarding the placement of armed police officers inside each of the district's K-12 buildings.  The move seemed to many as a "knee-jerk" reaction to the fear generated by the massacre of ...

Shouts of Racial Slurs Bring Police to Sparta Theatre

February 21, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – Sparta police were called to the New Vision Sparta Theater on Sunday night because of a woman shouting slurs in a screening of Black Panther.

Former New Jersey Assembly candidate Michael Grace was in the theater when two people started yelling racial slurs including “look at these ‘n-word’” and “can you believe these ...

OPINION

Letter to the Editor: Low-Income Families Who Need Safe Cribs Have Nowhere to Go

February 15, 2018

One recent email came from a pastor in East Orange, sharing the struggles of a young couple who have no safe place for their baby to sleep.

Then, there was also a phone call from a Newark hospital, making its fourth request in two years, as well as a frantic text from Puerto Rico, for a family who lost everything in the hurricane.

They all pleaded for the same thing: A safe crib for a ...

Somerset Patriots Sign Frontier League All-Star RHP Randy McCurry

February 17, 2018

The Somerset Patriots have announced the signing of right-handed relief pitcher Randy McCurry for the 2018 season.

“I’m excited to play in the Atlantic League this year,” said McCurry. “It’ll be a transition for me but I am ready to face some really good competition and help the team win.”

McCurry enters his first season with the Somerset Patriots and ...