This Jersey Democrat beat an opponent who tried to repeal Obamacare. Now he’s trying to block Trump from weakening it.
WASHINGTON — When freshman Rep. Andy Kim holds a town hall meeting, he says there’s one issue atop voters’ minds: Health care.
“It’s the issue that comes up more than anything else,” said Kim, elected on a pledge to improve health coverage. “This is what motivated me to run, Health care is very personal to me."
Kim, whose young son August was born with health problems, proposed legislation to provide federal help to states that want to run insurance exchanges instead of leaving it to the federal government.
The bill was incorporated into a larger measure to be debated on the House floor on Thursday. The measure also would restore funding to help consumers learn about their health insurance options and sign up for coverage.
The measure would also block President Donald Trump’s efforts to expand the use of short-term plans that are cheaper but do not provide a full range of benefits, including coverage for pre-existing conditions such as cancer or diabetes.
“He’s trying to sabotage everything,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-6th Dist., whose panel has jurisdiction over the issue.
And the large bill incorporates provisions designed to hold down drug prices by making it easier for generic companies to enter the market.
Kim’s legislation could make New Jersey eligible for federal funds as Gov. Phil Murphy seeks to take over the health insurance exchange now run by the federal government. Murphy said he was acting in response to Trump’s actions.
U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Bob Casey, D-Pa., have introduced a similar version of Kim’s bill in their chamber.
"This bill empowers states like ours to protect the strides we’ve made, expand health insurance coverage to more New Jerseyans, increase options, and bring down the costs of care overall,” Menendez said.
Kim, D-3rd Dist., ousted a Republican incumbent who played a key role in House GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, including its requirement to provide affordable coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Former Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur was slammed for his role in trying to repeal the law during a five-hour town hall meeting in Willingboro in May 2017.
Kim and three other Jersey Democrats made health care a centerpiece of their campaigns last year and captured Republican-held seats. The party’s candidates did the same nationwide and the Democrats won control of the House.
More than 4 in 10 voters in network exit polls reported by CNN said health care was their top issue and 75 percent of them backed Democratic congressional candidates.
Kim told the story of meeting a father concerned about his adult son, who has had health problems since he was 18 months old.
“He looked at me with tears welling in his eyes and said, ‘What can we do?’” Kim said. “I made him promise that day that I’ll do everything I humanly can to look out for his son. That’s what I’m hearing at town halls in my district.”
Trump, meanwhile, has urged a federal appeals court to strike down the entire health care law, including the provision for pre-existing conditions. And his proposed budget for the 12 months beginning Oct. 1 calls for repealing the current law.
If Trump is successful, the ranks of the uninsured in New Jersey would grow to 1.3 million, an 81 percent increase over the 732,000 currently without insurance, according to the Urban Institute, a Washington research group. The state would lose $2.7 billion in federal funds.