NJAMHAA President and CEO Debra L. Wentz Statement on the Senate’s “Better Care Reconciliation Act”

June 22, 2017

MERCERVILLE, NJ - New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies President and CEO Debra L. Wentz, Ph.D. stated today that "It is difficult to comment on the just released Senate health care repeal bill without expressing amazement at its inhumanity." She went on to say that, "As many have said before, it is clearly a tax cut for the wealthy and insurers disguised as a healthcare bill."

This bill, should it become law, would be devastating to Americans of many stripes - the elderly, the poor, children, and to hospitals and rural health services alike, but its impact on those in need of mental health and substance use treatment can only be described as catastrophic. Medicaid is the single largest payer of mental health and addiction treatment services in the country and the Senate's possible $45 billion dollar fund for opioid treatment falls $140 billion short in meeting the needs of the millions of Americans who will lose access to addiction and mental health treatment.

The "Better Care Reconciliation Act" is how the Senate refers to this bill which, beyond taking health care away from tens of millions of Americans, would cripple state budgets with its severe Medicaid cuts. According to USA Today, "enhanced federal funding for the low-income adults who became newly qualified under the Affordable Care Act would be phased out, ending after 2024. Federal support for traditional Medicaid would also be scaled back. States, which pay a portion of the cost of Medicaid, would have to find new funding or cut the program through restricting enrollment, curbing benefits, reducing payments to health care providers or finding efficiencies."

New Jersey would lose billions in federal funding and 54,000 New Jerseyans would lose their jobs under this bill. The latest estimate of New Jerseyans who would lose their health insurance stands at 540,000.

New Jersey is fortunate to have Senators Booker and Menendez fighting for its interests and against both the shameful process that produced this bill and the provisions within it. The bill has no heart, and is, amazingly, even meaner than what the House of Representatives produced. This does not represent American values or leadership. Congress needs to start over, in a bipartisan fashion, to fix our healthcare system, not destroy it.

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