Residents, Freeholders Discuss American Health Care Act

Ocean County Administration Building (Photo by Micromedia Publications)

TOMS RIVER – A resident’s concern about the American Health Care Act’s effects on older residents prompted a discussion during a recent meeting of the Ocean County Freeholders.

Lynda Fote, Toms River, speaking on behalf of the Ocean County chapter of the National Organization for Women, said one of their concerns was that Medicaid would eventually be phased out. Any additional Medicaid recipients would be the responsibility of the state. The block grants are the funding mechanism that states get reimbursed. There were several other people there, but she was the only one who spoke.

“It is important that our congressmen vote no on the American Health Care Act until they can guarantee that those covered by Medicaid will not lose their coverage and no move to block grants will leave New Jersey without the funds to offer the health care our poorest and most disabled need,” she said, reading from a statement.

The other concern was that there are plans to change the formula for seniors to buy care, she said. The new plan would give money based on age alone, rather than an amount that fluctuates based on age, income and other factors. The result of that would mean a decrease in aid for those who earn the least, she said. The AARP has already expressed its disdain for this portion of it.

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She said that the congressmen serving Ocean County want to do what is best for them, but are feeling pressured by Republican colleagues to vote along partisan lines. She wanted the Freeholders to either write a letter or resolution urging the congressmen to vote against the American Health Care Act.

  The Freeholders did not agree to write to the congressmen. At least, not until seeing the final form of the act.

Freeholder Director Joseph Vicari said that the freeholders are kept abreast of the issue with the director of social services to determine how this will affect residents. “Our top priority is to monitor this,” he said.

Administrator Carl Block said that the version of the American Health Care Act that has been circulated is only a draft. There are still negotiations that need to take place before it comes to a vote.

“It’s a vastly, vastly complicated issue,” Freeholder John Bartlett said. He noted problems of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, including people waiting around until they have a pre-existing condition before they buy insurance.

Another resident, Gary Black, said the Republican bill is a step in the right direction. “It’s not a proposal. I would call it an outline,” he said. “I don’t want to see anybody lose health care. No one does. But the problems have to be fixed. You can’t jump on board the Titanic and pretend nothing’s wrong.”

Both Vicari and Black repeated the quote that then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said about the lengthy Affordable Care Act, where she famously stated “We have to vote on it first before we can read it.”.

This quote was actually taken out of context. The actual quote was “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” The “you” in the quote was not directed to other members of Congress, but to the group she was addressing, the National Association of Counties. It was about getting the vote out of the House so that a final form could be brought to the Senate. (Bills relating to finance have to originate in the House.)

In previous public meetings, Freeholder John Kelly expressed that he did not want to see people with existing conditions left without health care. Rep. Tom MacArthur’s (R-3) said at a town hall that any health care bill would need to continue to cover residents up to age 26, cover pre-existing conditions, and “not pull the rug out from under the working poor.”