Tag Archive: AARP

Players in the Life and Death Game Of The Affordable Care Act

There are about 1.3 million people in NJ without health insurance – people who forgo needed doctor visits, can not afford medicines, avoid surgery, receive short term help in emergency rooms, and die earlier than those insured. One would think that such a large group would have a significant voice in NJ’s approach to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Alas!… no way.

There is the Republican approach which is to “repeal and replace Obamacare” and the Democratic approach which is to implement a NJ health exchange with consumer friendly rules and participate in Medicaid expansion. While political dogma will play a role and there are strong consumer advocacy groups, there is also a handful of high-powered industry lobbying organizations with money and access who will influence the outcome. Governor Christie, who boasts he is not shy about stating his position, has yet to enunciate with any clarity where he stands. Unfortunately, there is little time to meet the deadlines – the first of which is just two weeks after elections, to notify the federal government whether NJ plans to build its own healthcare insurance exchange.

Below are key players and oversimplified explanations of their positions, primarily on the type of health exchange needed for NJ. The players do not always publicize what they are seeking and may take different tacks as matters progress. The devil is always in the details.

NJ Association of Health Plans – NJAHP represents the six NJ health insurers. While members of this group like the idea of adding more patients to their rosters and they support a NJ health exchange, they want a “passive model” based on allowing all NJ insurers to participate under the minimum federal regulations, as opposed to facing additional state requirements which might be more consumer friendly – the “active model.” This disagreement was one of the reasons Governor Christie vetoed Senators Nia Gill’s (D-34) and Joseph Vitale’s (D-19) more progressive “active model” health exchange bill (S551).

Medical Society of New Jersey (doctors) – MSNJ did not support ACA legislation largely because “it did not address the sustainability of the Medicare and Medicaid programs and tort reform.” Doctors in NJ for Medicaid are reimbursed at a low rate of 37 percent of the federal Medicare rate, compared with a national average of 72 percent, and see little advantage in expanding Medicaid. More recently MSNJ has stated support for a NJ health exchange.

NJ Hospital Association – NJHA supports the goal of ACA to create health insurance exchanges. Hospitals receive monies from the State for charity care (this year $665 million) which they always consider insufficient. More patients with health insurance would decrease charity care and increase hospital revenue.

For other players, both pro and con, go beyond the fold.

S2664, Verizon’s anti-consumer telecom bill – on hold

Blue Jersey heard from Senator Loretta Weinberg from the State House about an hour ago that the telecom bill pushed by Verizon – S2664 – is being held up and may not be voted on today – and that the bill may in fact undergo substantive changes. We’re hearing from elsewhere that Sen. Sweeney has pulled the bill from consideration for today.

There’s been a howl of protest against this bill and its Assembly companion over the last few weeks, particularly following a combined efforts watchdog report from New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) and Demos that found the bill would result in hikes in the average phone bill, the elimination of key consumer protections.

Sen. Weinberg told Blue Jersey this morning that her offices were blitzed with calls on this bill – encouraged by the coalition led by NJ Citizen Action (NJCA) and AARP- urging a NO vote. The NJ League of Municipalities has also been messaging mayors to oppose the bill. Sen. Weinberg also told us that she got calls from the pro-S2664 forces, a Grover Norquist group that seemed to confuse their own members about the bill.

Quite a few NJ newspapers have had no trouble seeing through the haze:

  • Herald News called the bill, “ill-considered legislation goes too far too quickly and could leave citizens choking in the dust.”

  • Star-Ledger: “legislators shouldn’t strip customers of protections, or a cheap and basic phone service.”

  • Home News Tribune/Courier News: “Does anyone really believe that a Verizon or Comcast, their hands freed by fewer controls, would then offer the same services, or even more, for lower rates? We don’t. The vast majority of consumers don’t. But they’re not the ones pulling the strings in Trenton.”

  • APP urges NJ Senate: “Jam the signal on the telecom ‘choice act.'”

    Full disclosure: Blue Jersey’s running an ad from the coalition opposing this bill; we’d be opposing it even if we weren’t. The coalition is broad; you can read the partners here.

    Reaction from NJCA & more, after the jump …

     

  • AARP Tele-Town Hall with Legislative Leaders

    Speaker Roberts and Majority Leader Watson Coleman held a Tele-town hall meeting with members of NJ AARP:  

    During the hour-long question and answer session, the legislative leaders discussed, among other things, Assembly efforts to combat the global economic crisis, including increasing income limits for the Senior Freeze property tax relief program, boosting funding to help households pay utility bills and combating home foreclosures.

    The video release they put out is below. The use of technology to encourage more participation from the membership around the state is good to see.

    Protection for NJ’s oldest Consumers

    (Yesterday in Trenton)–

    Thanks to a bi-partisan trio in the New Jersey statehouse (and some AARP lobby muscle) seniors may soon have protections from predatory lending practices.

    And if you think the AARP is for old people, you’re right.

    But where is your Grandma gonna live if she loses her home?

    AARP, AFL-CIO Support Paid Family Leave

    Support from a coalition of organizations could boost New Jersey’s chances to become the third state granting workers paid family leave. The AARP became the latest group to join the New Jersey Partnership for Working Families – a coalition of over 60 organizations supporting paid family leave:

    “AARP’s 2006 study on caregivers showed that providing better supports for family caregivers is essential to the well-being of our health care system, our long-term care system and our economy,” said Marilyn Askin, Chief Legislative Advocate for AARP New Jersey.

    Phyllis Salowe Kaye, Executive director of NJ Citizen Action, summarized why family leave is so important:

    “No worker should be forced to suffer a financial crisis in order to care for their ill family members.”

    The legislation would allow employees to collect up to about $500/week for up to 10 weeks. Given the fierce opposition from within the business community, one might think this would impose an added financial burden on them. But the entire program would be paid for by a small deduction from worker’s paychecks.

    The only real burden is that the company would be required to keep the position open for when they return to work, but Senator Sweeney – a sponsor of the legislation – has “already agreed to allow businesses with less than 50 employees to tell workers taking leave that they wouldn’t be guaranteed to keep their job after the leave. “

    We’ll give AFL-CIO president Charlie Wowkanech the last word:

    “New Jersey workers have overwhelmingly declared their willingness to contribute to this program in return for the security of knowing that they will be able to be there for a loved one in their time of need without fear of financial disaster…Furthermore, the experiences of both California and Washington with this policy have proven that this program not only has no negative impact on business, but leads to a healthier work environment and therefore increased productivity.”