Rep. Tom MacArthur is joining a group of Republican legislators refusing to back the Department of Justice’s decision to not defend the constitutionality of the Affordable Care ct.
The decision by the Trump administration puts many Republican members of Congress in an awkward situation. Public approval of the ACA has increased since Republicans attempted to pass the American Healthcare Act, their replacement to the law commonly known as Obamacare, last year.
To make matters worse for Republicans like MacArthur, who is one of the Republicans in New Jersey’s House delegation facing a serious election challenge, the administration’s decision does not exclude popular provisions like protection for preexisting conditions, which MacArthur called “sacrosanct,” recalling his mother’s fatal bout with cancer, one that left his father with decades of medical bills.
“I experienced it again as a young father when my oldest daughter had over $1 million in medical bills during her 11 years with us. Thankfully, my wife and I had insurance, but we faced the pressures of uncovered expenses,” MacArthur said. “For these reasons, I don’t support the DOJ decision without an accompanying legislative fix from Congress and President Trump.”
MacArthur’s statement came after his Democratic opponent, former Obama national security staffer Andy Kim, who like many Democrats is seeking to make an issue out of the ACA.
“I’m running for Congress because last year during the lead up to my son’s birth, our doctor told my wife and I that our son may not survive or have a serious health condition for the rest of his life. No family should have to go through that and worrying how to pay for it all.” Kim said. “I urge Congressman MacArthur publicly demands that President Trump defends protections for pre-existing conditions and upholds the ACA immediately, so our premiums and medical bills don’t skyrocket even further.”
While MacArthur stopped short of defending the act wholesale, his call for a legislative fix accompanying the DOJ’s policy is in line with the statements of another New Jersey Congressman. Rep. Leonard Lance told Bloomberg on Friday that the administration should back off and Congress should step in.
But, MacArthur is likely more vulnerable than Lance is on healthcare. The two-term congressman helped author the amendment to the AHCA that led to it passing a tight vote in the House. MacArthur and retiring Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen were the only members of New Jersey’s delegation to vote in favor of the bill, which died in the Senate.
“The American Healthcare Act, including the amendment I authored, guaranteed coverage for preexisting conditions as a matter of law and provided $138 billion to pay for that coverage at the federal level without driving everyone else’s health care insurance premiums higher, which was the fatal flaw of Obamacare,” MacArthur said.
The version of that bill that made it through the House provided protections for pre-existing conditions but allowed states to obtain a waiver to setup high-risk pools or have insurers reimbursed for covering high-risk consumers through a federal program.
In states with waivers, insurers would have been able to charge people with pre-existing conditions more if they let their health insurance lapse, a provision that experts said would hit poor Americans, many of whom have trouble staying insured without breaks.