The NJ August 22 Monmouth poll found that healthcare is the top issue-related concern on voters’ minds. Poll Director Patrick Murray said, “Health care looks like the issue that could give Democrats the most leverage among persuadable midterm voters. It really comes down to family finances – ‘Can I pay my bills?’ Republicans, on the other hand, need to convince more voters that they are better off now than they were two years ago,” said Murray.
In New Jersey Governor Murphy has implemented several worthwhile programs including New Jersey’s reinsurance plan, and an individual mandate law. He expects our premiums should decrease by an average of 9.3 percent. In fact, national experts say premiums would likely be going down more this year if not for the White House casting uncertainty on the ACA’s future.
After many efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the House in 2017 finally passed the Trump/GOP insidious American Healthcare Act which would have partially repealed the ACA. It passed by a close vote of 217 to 213. Never mind that it failed in the Senate after several attempts. Republicans still would like to kill it if they could.
- Of the total 20 House Republicans who voted against it, three were from NJ: Frank LoBiondo (CD 2) who soon announced he would resign from the House, Chris Smith (CD 4), and Leonard Lance (CD 7). Dems in these districts should remind each other that Smith and Lance had voted many times in the past to “repeal and replace” the ACA, and we cannot count on their support in the future. In CD 4 Josh Welle (D) and in CD 7 Tom Malinowski (D) are strong supporters of ACA. In CD 2 Jeff Van Drew (D) has been fairly quiet on the matter and vaguely states in his website, “I want to ensure that reforms to the nation’s …health insurance system … are beneficial to South Jersey families and business owners.” However, his opponent Seth Grossman (R) seeks “repeal of all remnants of Obamacare.”
- Two Republicans voted in favor: Rodney Frelinghuysen (CD 11), who later resigned his seat, and Tom MacArthur (CD 3), who not only supported the bill but played a key role in resuscitating it. At a constituent meeting one protesters said, “That’s a problem, and this is your amendment, sir. You brought it back from the dead. It’s yours. You own it.” On Facebook challenger Andy Kim (D) says, Help me fight against the TrumpCare author. In CD 11 Mikie Sherrill (D) supports the ACA, saying I believe deeply that every American should have access to quality and affordable healthcare. Assemblyman Jay Webber (R) supported bills that would repeal ACA.
Republicans are vulnerable on these issues. Check out the positions of the Republican and Democratic House candidates in your district on these and other matters that concern you.
- PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICING: The rising cost of prescription drugs has intensified, drawing attention and fire across the political spectrum and in the media. Numerous bills have been introduced in Congress but largely ignored. In a related issue incumbent Rep. Frank Pallone (CD 6) has introduced a bill that will provide the Food and Drug Administration with stronger recall and seizure authority to disrupt the entry of counterfeit and illicit drugs. Even some Dems with large pharma donation are not supportive enough.
- MENTAL HEALTH: Patrick Kennedy shepherded a major mental-health bill into law. Ten years later, big barriers remain. While one in five Americans experiences a mental illness in a given year, more than half of them didn’t receive treatment. More funding and access is needed.
- OPIOIDS: Rates of opioid misuse and addiction continue to skyrocket, with the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimating that over 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose each day. The recently passed opioid bill is heartening and frustrating: heartening because it offers some positive steps, and frustrating because it doesn’t do more. We must insist that further steps are needed. Incumbent Rep. Bill Pascrell (CD 9) has introduced a related bill that passed in the House to help eliminate opioid related infectious diseases.
- MEDICARE & MEDICAID: House Speaker Paul Ryan for years has been determined to cut entitlements, and earlier this year there were severe threats in the House to do so. However the Tea Party is no longer a thing, and it appears that for now Republicans have largely abandoned the idea that entitlements need to be cut. Our deficit so far was $22 billion less than CBO projected it would be earlier this year. Some Republicans are now arguing that “Medicare for All” would be a disaster but such a plan is worth promoting and with a Democratic Congress, could gain traction. If Congress were to remain Republican, entitlement cuts and worse could be on the agenda.
- PRESIDENT’S EMERGENCY PLAN FOR AIDS RELIEF: The creation of the president’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003 was a landmark in bipartisan congressional commitment to combatting the global HIV/AIDS. President Trump proposed slashing PEPFAR funding in fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Congress rejected the 2018 budget request and funded PEPFAR at the 2017 level of $4.65 billion. The program’s impact places it in the pantheon of iconic U.S. policy efforts, yet it’s future under Republican control remains uncertain.
Our future next year if under a Republican House is not uncertain. It is bleak. Healthcare is an issue that can help us flip the House, and maybe even the Senate by re-electing Bob Menendez who is supportive of these issues.
Preview image above of protesters before a town hall meeting with Representative Leonard Lance.
You can read Midterm Issues Part I on SALT here.