January 15, 2017 In The News

Norcross at Day of Action: ‘Fight back’ against Obamacare repeal

At the MD Anderson Cancer Center Sunday, breast cancer survivor Debbie Klein approached a podium at the Day of Action event in support of Obamacare and said she was honored to be there.

“If it weren’t for the Affordable Care Act, I don’t know if I would be,” she said.

Klein, of Haddonfield, didn’t work while she cared for her ailing mother, and said she wouldn’t have been able to afford coverage if it wasn’t for the Affordable Care Act. Her coverage allowed her to have five surgeries at the center last year that ultimately saved her, she said.

“I’m cured,” she said.

The Day of Action event, one of many held around the country Sunday, featured other stories from patients, doctors and politicians about the positive impact the threatened health care system has had in the last seven years.

Congressman Donald Norcross, D-Camden, who organized the event at the Camden hospital, said it was personal for him, too.

Two of his children are among the 60,000 young adults who have been able to stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26, he said. And just yesterday, while checking something online in his medical records, he was reminded of a past diagnosis for a condition he has.

“The first thing I thought is if I have to change insurance, that’s a pre-existing condition,” Norcross said.

A Montclair breast cancer patient will be the guest of the head of Health and Human Services for a speech on Obamacare in Washington Monday.

In front of around 30 people Sunday, Norcross lamented the House of Representatives vote Friday to use the budget reconciliation process to repeal the act commonly known as Obamacare. The process will allow repeal with only a majority of votes and will make it impossible for Democrats to filibuster.

“It was certainly a very unlucky day for people who care about their health care,” he said of the on Friday the 13th vote.

Norcross said Democrats and those who value the existing health care reform will fight back against the attempts to repeal. He said he has hope that some Republicans will cross the aisle, as Rep. Tom MacArthur of the 3rd District, did Friday in voting against the House resolution.

More than 200,000 people in New Jersey could lose their private insurance coverage if the Obamacare opponents are successful in repealing, according to Norcross. More than 650,000 low-income people who qualified for coverage under the provision that expanded Medicaid may also lose coverage.

“We hear, ‘Repeal, repeal, repeal,'” Norcross said. “But there’s no plan for what they want to do moving forward.”

At a press conference last week, President-elect Donald Trump said the act would be replaced at the same time it is repealed. He gave no details of what the replacement would look like.

Hospitals would be particularly hard hit, said one hospital president.

After Friday’s vote, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said the new plan would cover everyone who now receives insurance through the Affordable Care Act, but also did not have details to share.

Also speaking at the event in Camden was Dr. Generosa Grana, director of the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

She said that the center treats everyone, regardless of insurance coverage, so it often sees patients who travel from all over South Jersey. But in past years, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured coming to the center decreased as more people got coverage and were able to choose treatment centers closer to home.

Also for the past seven years, people with cancer, which she called the “ultimate pre-existing condition,” did not have to worry about getting charged astronomical prices if they had to change insurance.

Ann Twomey, president of the Health Professionals & Allied Employees union representing area registered nurses, said that “frontline caregivers” know that the increased coverage and preventative care available under the Affordable Care Act helped keep people out of emergency rooms and hospitals.

Before the reforms, nurses would see many more people in the emergency room who weren’t getting regular care and were more likely to come back to the ER soon. “They couldn’t afford the medications, the follow-up treatments,” she said.