Government

Guest Column

Menendez Calls for Bipartisan Review of Affordable Care Act

Senator Robert Menendez Credits: gettyimages.com

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.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Like

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - October 20, 2017

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

CAMDEN - Troubled. Crime-infested. Failing. Pick your own tried-and-true adjective to describe Camden. But even the haters have a tough time ignoring that plenty is being invested in our southern waterfront city. Just yesterday, a whole bunch of important people broke ground on the Joint Health Sciences Center, a 95,000-square-foot building promising to ...

New Brunswick Plows Ahead with Amazon Proposal

October 18, 2017

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Newark may have gotten the state’s stamp of approval for the Amazon HQ2, but local officials say the Hub City still has what it takes.

The New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) submitted its application directly to Amazon on Tuesday, October 17, said Chris Paladino, DEVCO’s president, adding that he was “very proud” of the ...

Rutgers student sexually assaulted in College Avenue dorm room

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A female student affiliated with the university was reportedly sexually assaulted when a man randomly walked into her dorm room on October 13, according to police.

The assault happened at around 4:30 p.m. in Mettler Hall on College Avenue, Rutgers police said in a university-wide crime alert.

The victim was sitting in her room with the door open, when an unknown man ...

University eyeing former VP as potential commencement speaker

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Following the appearance of former Vice President Joe Biden at the Rutgers College Avenue Gym on October 12, the university is eyeing Biden as the potential 2018 commencement speaker.

The former vice president had dropped the rumor while taking selfies with students following his appearance, according to a post on the Rutgers subreddit.

Rutgers officials confirmed ...

South Brunswick Police Offering Reward For Gas Station Shooting Information

October 16, 2017

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – Police, in conjunction with Middlesex County, are offering a reward for information regarding Sunday morning’s shooting during a botched robbery at a Route 27 gas station that left the attendant in serious condition.

In a press release Monday afternoon, Chief of Police Raymond Hayducka said the department is offering a reward for information about the robbery ...

OPINION

A Call to Action on Healthcare

September 24, 2017

Dear TAPInto New Brunswick,

On July 29, 2016, one week after my 41st birthday, with no warning, I experienced a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection. SCAD is an uncommon heart condition that causes arteries in the heart to tear, leading to a blockage of the artery, and, in my case, a heart attack.  I HAVE NO KNOWN RISK FACTORS FOR HEART DISEASE.  

I am a mother of two young ...

Get An Early Halloween Scare At The Milltown Haunted River Walk

October 20, 2017

MILLTOWN, NJ - For folks that love things that go bump in the night and thrill to a "Friday the 13th" marathon, the Halloween Haunted River Walk opens tonight along the Milltown Pond Path. This scare-worthy evening is presented by the Joyce Kilmer School's class of 2018.

Walks begin at 7 p.m. along the Milltown Pond Path and run until 9 p.m. The entrance to the spooktacular ...

No Government Shutdown for Now, But Medicaid Remains at Risk

October 2, 2017

While federal lawmakers avoided a government shutdown this fall, the next budget battle is just months away. Because Congress approved only a short-term fix, leaders will need to once again negotiate a spending plan and the debt ceiling.

Despite the recent bipartisan deal, Medicaid remains a primary target for budget cuts.

People with disabilities, advocates, and concerned citizens deserve ...