"Romneycare" was the foundation of Obamacare - especially when it comes to the mandate that individuals purchase health insurance, a feature of both plans that was devised by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Jonathan Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist, helped write both Romneycare and Obamacare. There was a time when Romney himself said his plan, including the mandate, should be a model for the nation. Kyrillos endorsed this notion just a few short years ago.
Now, however, Kyrillos is disparaging the Affordable Care Act for no reason other than the fact that President Obama made it a reality. While voters have become accustomed to such craven political maneuvering, Kyrillos' flip-flop is a particularly bad example. It's also a petty pander to the base of his party, calculated to garner right-wing support rather than do what's best for the people of New Jersey.
The Supreme Court's ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act should have closed the book on such bickering. But Kyrillos and his cohorts continue fighting Obamacare simply because of its Democratic origins. And this is not a theoretical dorm-room discussion: While they snipe from the sidelines, real lives are at stake.
Obamacare's benefits are clear. Families are more secure because they can't be denied coverage due to preexisting conditions, or be forced into bankruptcy due to an illness. Two and a half million young adults under 26 now have coverage under their parents' plans, and more than 5.5 million senior citizens and disabled people have saved nearly $4.5 billion on prescriptions under the law.
Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies spend at least 80 percent of their premiums on patient care, not executive bonuses or corporate retreats. Those failing to meet this threshold must write checks to their customers for the difference, and they have already provided $1.1 billion in rebates. Moreover, insurance companies must submit a justification for public review if they want to raise premiums by 10 percent or more, which has helped save consumers an estimated $1 billion.
In Camden, the law is already helping Project HOPE's federally qualified health center provide services to low-income and at-risk patients. Project HOPE is on the front lines, delivering care in one of America's most economically depressed cities, and 49 percent of its patients are uninsured. Obamacare is giving it more tools to deliver high-quality, cost-effective primary care, including electronic record-keeping to efficiently track results. The center also received a grant to construct a new facility, which will increase patient access and preventive care. And with new funding, health centers are being held to higher standards in the services they provide.
But if Kyrillos had his way, none of this would be possible for Project HOPE or the people and communities they serve. Regressive candidates like him are vowing to refight a stale political battle to put the insurance companies back in charge; Kyrillos has even promised to be "the 51st senator to vote to repeal Obamacare." After Election Day, he can only hope that Obamacare covers contorting oneself on the campaign trail as a preexisting condition.
Joshua Henne is the New Jersey spokesman for Protect Your Care.