You can call it the Affordable Care Act 2.0 as the new legislation, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act, is aimed at providing financial relief for residents by lowering the costs of health care and prescription drugs.

New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone (D), representing much of Middlesex and Monmouth Counties, says this legislation will expand access to health care, strengthen protections for people with pre-existing conditions, reduces racial and ethnic health coverage disparities and reverses what he calls sabotage by the Trump Administration for their efforts to reverse the actions of the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare".

"Ever since we passed the Affordable Care Act, and I was one of the authors, (President) Trump and the Republican leadership has tried to repeal it and they filed their court papers for the Supreme Court to repeal it and the President has done whatever he could to sabotage it," Pallone told Townsquare Media-Jersey Shore News. "For example, eliminating all the outreach programs, allowing waivers so state's could sell junk plans that don't cover all the benefits and don't have the patient protections that we have in the Affordable Care Act."

Congressman Pallone says The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act the costs of prescription drugs has been a big issue with Medicare.

"We know that increasingly prescription drug costs are a bigger and bigger part of your healthcare costs and even though we have programs to pay for prescription drugs under Medicare, the costs of those drugs are increasing co-pays and increasing costs of the government," Pallone said.

He explains that the bill would enhance the ACA and include a mechanism to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs.

"The Enhancement Act basically increases the level of subsidies to pay for your premiums and also gets rid of a cap that exists on who is eligible for subsidies," Pallone said.

Pallone explains that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that approximately 4-million people who don't have health insurance now, would receive it under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act and be able to afford it.

"Right now for a family of four that was making about $103,000.00, they wouldn't get any subsidy so we list that cap and then we increase the subsidy for everyone," Pallone said.

The PACEA would also help negotiate the price of prescription drugs.

"In every other developed country other than the United States, the government negotiates the prices and sometimes prices in the U.S. are not only two times but five or ten times what they are in other countries," Pallone said.

This legislation would lead to prices going down by half of what it had been.

The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy has also trickled to people's ability to have health insurance, particularly those who are no longer employed.

"A lot of people lost their health insurance from the Covid virus, because they lost their job, and we want to make sure that they can afford coverage in the future and we also know that premiums are likely to go up because of all the expenses from Covid and therefore we need to help people pay their premiums," Pallone said.

Congressman Pallone cites numbers from the Kaiser Family Foundation, that state one-third of American adults report that they or a family member have not filled a prescription, rationed medication below their prescribed dose or skipped doses altogether because they could not afford the full cost.

In New Jersey, the average annual cost of prescription drugs rose nearly 58 percent between 2012 to 2017.

In 2017, 24 percent of New Jersey residents did not take medication as prescribed because of high costs.

Overall The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act has a number of intentions:

  • Encourages states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs to do so by renewing the ACA’s original expanded federal match.  If all states expanded Medicaid, about 4.8 million more Americans would be eligible for Medicaid, including an estimated 2.3 million people who are uninsured.
  • Reverses the Trump Administration’s efforts to give states waivers to undermine pre-existing condition protections and weaken standards for essential health benefits.
  • Stops the expansion of junk insurance plans that allow insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, put consumers at financial risk, and drive up comprehensive insurance costs.
  • Restores critical outreach and enrollment funding that has been gutted by the Trump Administration and provide funding for navigators to assist consumers in signing up for health care.
  • Combats the maternal mortality epidemic, which continues to particularly impact Black and Native American people, by extending Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage to new mothers from the current 60 days post-partum to one year.
  • Further reduces racial and ethnic health inequities by expanding coverage and premium assistance to more Black and Hispanic Americans.
  • Protects vulnerable populations from losing health coverage by ensuring that Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries receive a full 12 months of coverage once enrolled, protecting them from interruptions due to fluctuations in their income throughout the year.

You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com.

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