Set against a backdrop of an impromptu birthday celebration for him and an event to name a new Pediatric Screening Center after him on Jan. 7 at the Metropolitan Family Health Network offices in Jersey City, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez said he will oppose any move to repeal the federal healthcare package that critics call “Obamacare.”
He said the Democratic-led U.S. Senate will oppose the Republican-led House of Representatives’ attempt to repeal the healthcare plan President Barack Obama pushed through Congress last year.
He said the healthcare package affects 15 million uninsured in New Jersey residents along with another 306,000 who are underinsured. The law also covers about 1.3 million senior citizens. A repeal would hurt 107,000 small businesses, Menendez said, since it would do away with tax credits for them.
“I’m going to fight any challenges,” Menendez said.
“This is what I want to be remembered for when I leave office.” – Robert Menendez
Menendez said 30 million Americans will go without health insurance if the repeal succeeds.
While Menendez expressed confidence that the repeal move will not succeed, some reports suggest that some other Democrats in the U.S. Senate might support the repeal, something Republican critics of the health plan seem to be counting on.
With a new majority as a result of the November election, House Republicans do have the necessary votes to pass the repeal there. Democrats have a relatively slim majority in the U.S. Senate.
Among the provisions Republicans most object to is the requirement for individuals and businesses to purchase health insurance. This provision is currently being challenged in the courts, and is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court to determine it if it constitutional.
Republicans want Congress or the president to find another way to fund the program, as well as other modifications.
Obama and Democratic legislators originally proposed a government-based healthcare option similar to Medicare – but dropped this due to stiff options from Republicans and some members of the Democratic legislature, and a compromise allowed the current system to get passed last year.
Republicans believe the current system aversely affects small business owners and slows job growth. Democrats claim the law provides 30 million people with insurance they would not otherwise have without the law. Most legislators in both parties do agree that something has to be done to address the rising cost of health insurance so that people and businesses can afford to get coverage.
Office provides services to vulnerable
Menendez said he picked the Metropolitan Family Health Network to make this announcement because it provides health services to some of the most vulnerable people in Hudson County.
He is responsible for legislation that helped fund this facility in Jersey City, as well as its sister facility in West New York.
Metropolitan Family Health Network named the Pediatric Department’s Children’s Department after Menendez in gratitude for his support in funding Federal Quality Health Care Centers throughout the nation, and making certain these get the same funding as other health care providers – something Menendez said was not true in the past.
Scott Carey, chief operating officer of the center, said the site provides preventive measures as well as treatment. This, Menendez noted, is a key ingredient in keeping down health care costs, as it may cost less overall to prevent an illness than to treat it.
In urban areas, Menendez said, young people often face chronic problems. Catching them earlier means more successful treatment, as well.
“This is what I want to be remembered for when I leave office,” Menendez said.
Carey said the center, which provides services for Jersey City and Bayonne residents at its Garfield Avenue facility, treats about 6,000 kids as year or about 18,000 visits last year. This includes about 2,000 flu shots; tests; and treatment for hearing, vision, pulmonary, and other medical services, including children’s immunizations.
Patients are charged on a sliding fee scale based on income.
Menendez, said Joan Dublin, chief executive officer of Metropolitan, has been a champion for children’s health initiatives, and has led the Congressional effort to protect federal support for New Jersey’s FamilyCare Children’s Health Insurance program.
Menendez’s intervention helped rescue the network when it was tied to one of the area hospitals, Dublin said.
“It’s Metropolitan Family Health Network’s mission to provide high quality, accessible health care to the underserved population of our community,” Dublin said. “Early detection is the best protection against childhood diseases.”
Winner of the “Outstanding American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Award” by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services for full compliance with the N.J. Vaccines for Children Program and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the facility has been providing services in Jersey City and Bayonne for about 20 years, with financial support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the State of New Jersey. In 2006, it became a Federally Qualified Health Center in Hudson County, providing care for patients even without health insurance.