Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Dems Cite Harm to N.J. from Gop Health Bill

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Dems Cite Harm to N.J. from Gop Health Bill

Article excerpt

As Republicans in Congress hurtle toward a vote this week on their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, New Jersey's senior senator and other Democrats asked Tuesday why Gov. Chris Christie hasn't used his access to President Donald Trump to defend New Jersey's interests, particularly because hundreds of thousands of residents are projected to lose coverage under the Republican plan.

"The governor played such a role in the Trump campaign, he should pick up that cellphone number he has and say this doesn't work for New Jersey," said U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez. "I'd be using my political capital" to seek changes that avoid the loss of billions of dollars to the state.

The governor said earlier this year that he favored the Republican-proposed changes to Medicaid, the joint federal-state insurance program for the poor. They would switch Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement program to a fixed annual federal grant to the states. Christie also has made treatment for those addicted to opioids and narcotics the centerpiece of his last year in office, and wants to expand hospital coverage and other options for substance-abuse treatment.

Those two goals are incompatible, said Democratic speakers during a conference call about the New Jersey impact of the Republican health-care proposals.

"The bottom line is, if you're going to get less money from the federal government ... what we know happens is that behavioral health and drug treatment - those are the first things to go," said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., of the 6th District, Middlesex and Monmouth counties.

"The state is in a budget crisis," he said, and won't be able to make up the loss of an estimated $4.2 billion if Medicaid matching funds are rolled back. Either services will be cut or the number of people eligible will be cut, he said.

Christie "thanks Senator Menendez for his kind suggestion but assures him his encouragement is unnecessary," his spokesman, Brian Murray, said. The governor "communicates with the president and members of the administration on this and other issues on a regular basis. …

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