Medicare Health Coverage for All NJ Residents

A bill (A2269) introduced in the Assembly in February would dramatically expand Medicare coverage. Under the proposal it would become available to all people who have resided in the state for the last 30 days prior to their application, regardless of the person’s age, health, or disability status. Currently, Medicare is generally available only to people who are age 65 years or older, who have a disability, or who have certain specified health conditions. Let’s unite to support it. 

The bill is similar to one Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced last year in the US Senate which would apply nation-wide, but which so far has been ignored by Republican leadership. Our Sen. Cory Booker was one of 18 senators to sponsor the bill. 

Supporters in New Brunswick

There is momentum in New Jersey and the nation for such a plan. Governor Murphy who promised “Healthcare That Works for All of Us” has already taken steps here, and here with important patchwork solutions. We need to continue and to strengthen our support for the Holy Grail. The NJ bill, which has been referred to the Assembly Health & Senior Services Committee, has Primary Sponsors: Angelica Jimenez, Shanique Speight, and Raj Mukherji Cosponsors: Daniel Benson and Gordon Johnson. Although there has been no movement so far, it is conceivable that with Democratic control of the Legislature and a Democratic governor such a bill could pass (not without opposition) in our state. It is also possible that if we regain control of the House and Senate in the midterm elections such a federal bill might pass in Congress. Go here for information on the federal bill (S1804).

Medicare is funded by the Social Security Administration, which means it’s funded largely by taxpayers. We pay 1.45% of our earnings into FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) which go toward Medicare. Employers pay another 1.45%, bringing the total to 2.9%. In addition, under Part A (hospital insurance) some recipients have to pay a monthly premium, and under Part B (medical insurance) all recipients have to pay a premium. Also recipients typically have to pay other sums such as 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for most doctor services. Alternatively recipients can purchase a Part C plan from health insurers which covers most of such additional costs.

EASIER SAID THAN DONE

If the State bill becomes a law, NJ would apply to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for any waiver of federal statute or regulation necessary to effectuate this expansion. If approved, which is uncertain under a Trump administration, the application would allow New Jersey to replace federal, State, and local health care programs with universal coverage through New Jersey Medicare. This would be met by opposition from NJ health insurance companies which would be largely out of business, more conservative politicians, and doctors, hospitals and other health care providers who would likely receive less compensation per patient under Medicare.

“I HAVE A DREAM

Some fifty years ago Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put healthcare at the top of his list of shocking injustices. He said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Although the arc of the moral universe is long, he felt it bends toward justice.  Whether it be this year or some near-future year, it is achievable if we remain steadfast and vocal in our support.

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