e-News 2/17/17

eNews  2-17-17

  • More Evidence: Obamacare Needs a Rescue!
  • New Jersey Doctor Takes Helm at Department of Veterans Affairs
  • The House Helps Our Heroes
  • Valentines for Vets!
  • House Appropriations Committee Begins “Member Day” Hearings
  • Salute: Montclair State University Teaching Teachers


The future of the health coverage system established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, is very much in the headlines these days.  This week, we saw more evidence that when it comes to Obamacare, the status quo is unsustainable. 

We have been warning that the Obamacare exchanges would see less competition and fewer choices choice in coming months, and this week, another insurer announced that it will drop out of Obamacare marketplace at the end of 2017.

Humana cited two main reasons for its decision: One, “the market has not stabilized enough to participate next year,” and two, the company “is losing money from taking on too many sick people without enough healthy people to balance the pools.”

But that’s not all. This week, Aetna’s CEO declared that Obamacare markets are in a “death spiral,” predicting even more insurers will leave in the coming weeks.

With shrinking competition in individual markets, incentives for Americans to sign up for coverage are dwindling. Now, incentives for insurers to stick around are fading, too.

The Humana news follows the decisions last year by insurance giants United and Aetna to leave the Obamacare markets. 

The message here: Obamacare is collapsing before our eyes. The status quo won’t survive long!

That’s one of the reasons we are working to rescue people from this collapse. And we feel an obligation to do that.

I recognize that we also have an obligation to ensure a stable transition to a new patient-center, market-based system.  I fully expect to be able to vote on a bill that allows young adults up to age 26 to remain on their family’s policy and also protects coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

For more information, click here.

New Jersey Doctor Takes Helm at Department of Veterans Affairs

In a break from the partisan divisions that have dominated Capitol Hill, the U.S. Senate came together this week to confirm Dr. David Shulkin as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

David Shulkin knows healthcare, he knows veterans and he knows New Jersey, having served as the President of Morristown Medical Center.  I am confident that Dr. Shulkin will deliver!

Shulkin was appointed Undersecretary for Health by President Obama in March of 2015 as the VA grappled with several scandals involving long wait times for veterans at VA hospitals, reports of cover-ups and skyrocketing construction costs at VA hospitals.

Certainly, much more work needs to be done to fix the widespread problems at the VA. Every day we must focus on needs of men and women veterans and improve the department’s ability to provide our veterans the care and benefits they have earned.

By the way, the Senate vote on Dr. Shulkin’s confirmation was a well-deserved 100-0!

The House Helps Our Heroes

With my support, the House passed three bipartisan bills to improve the lives of veterans -- the WINGMAN Act (H.R. 512), the HIRE Vets Act (H.R 244), and the BRAVE Act (H.R. 974).  

Veterans have unique skill sets that can be very valuable in any workplace -- technical expertise, the ability to work as a team, a mission-oriented focus and leadership.  However, all too often, barriers exist that prevent veterans from finding good jobs.

These three bills encourage employers to hire veterans and recognizing those who already do. Additionally, we are also removing red tape that makes it difficult for our constituent service staff to help veterans get the assistance they have earned.  

  • The WINGMAN Act makes it easier for congressional offices to provide customer service by allowing them to have read-only, direct access to necessary casework documents, removing the bureaucratic middle man from the process.
  • The HIRE Vets Act creates a self-funded awards program that recognizes the meaningful work of employers to hire and retain veterans.
  • The BRAVE Act authorizes the VA to give preference to companies that hire veterans when awarding procurement contracts. 

Valentines for Vets!

Each and every year, elementary school students across the 11th district create hand-made, heartfelt messages designed to lift the spirits of veterans confined to the East Orange and Lyons VA hospitals on Valentine’s Day.  I commend the faculty, staff and students at these schools for taking the time and effort to extend a hand to men and women who served in our Armed Forces.

This year I visited Good Shepherd Academy in Nutley, along with the past New Jersey Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Jack Kane, to pick up “Valentines for Veterans.” I always ask a distinguished veteran to visit schools with me.  While the Valentines themselves lift the spirits of hospitalized veterans, these visits are also valuable ways for young people to learn more the sacrifices made by so many men and women. 

Thousands of valentines have been delivered to veterans in the hospitals in East Orange and Bernards Township.

11th District Schools that participated in our annual Valentines for Vets program:  Hilltop Country Day School (Sparta), Ellen T. Briggs School (Hopatcong), Hudson Maxim Elementary (Hopatcong), Pope John Middle School (Sparta), Durban Avenue School (Hopatcong), Morris Plains Borough School (Morris Plains), Rockaway Valley Elementary (Boonton), Dennis B. O’Brien School (Dover), Mendham Township Elementary, Peck School (Morristown), Sussex Avenue Elementary (Morristown), Mountain View School (Mendham), Southern Boulevard School (Chatham), Normandy Park School (Morristown), Stonybrook Elementary (Kinnelon), Rockaway Valley Elementary (Boonton), East Lake School (Parsippany), Parsippany Christian School (Parsippany), Mount Tabor School, Troy Hills Elementary (Parsippany), Littleton Elementary (Parsippany), St. Mary’s Prep (Denville), Interval Elementary (Boonton), Bee Meadow School (Hanover), Salem Drive Elementary (Whippany), Central Avenue School (Madison), Briarwood Road School (Florham Park), Central Elementary (Hanover), Frank J. Smith Elementary (Hanover), Lincoln Park School, Riverview Elementary (Denville), Divine Mercy Academy (Denville), Rockaway Meadow School (Parsippany), Cozy Lake Elementary (Oak Ridge), Lester C. Noecker (Roseland), Bradford School (Montclair), Watsessing Elementary (Bloomfield), Berkeley Elementary (Bloomfield), Good Shepard School (Nutley), Jefferson Elementary (Caldwell), Washington School (Nutley), Spring Garden Elementary (Nutley), Riker Hill Elementary (Livingston), Collins Elementary (Livingston), Fairview Elementary (Bloomfield), Forest Avenue Elementary (Verona), Albert Payson Terhune (Wayne), Immaculate Heart (Wayne), Thuenis Dey (Wayne), Lincoln School (Pompton Lakes), Lenox Elementary (Pompton Lakes), Washington Park Elementary (Totowa), Fallon Elementary (Wayne), Haskell Elementary, Academy of St. Francis of Assisi (Totowa). 

House Appropriations Committee Begins “Member Day” Hearings                             

At my direction, each of the 12 Subcommittees are conducting “Member Day” hearings to solicit ideas and opinions directly from members.  Every member of the House is invited to testify on her or his priorities for the next budget year.

Yesterday, the process kicked off appropriately with the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee meeting to hear how Representatives view the performance of the VA, the needs of veterans and ways to improve the quality of life for military service members and their families.

Read more in Kellie Mejdrich’s story in Congressional Quarterly, “Advocates for Veterans Plead for Help From House Appropriators” here.

New Jersey’s Business Leadership “Walks to Washington”

I had the honor to attend the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s 80th“Walk to Washington” last night and had to opportunity to speak with leaders of the states’ businesses, large and small, as well as a number of county and municipal officials.  It is always valuable to listen to their perspectives. 

Salute: Montclair State University has been awarded a $1.45 million grant by the National Science Foundation to prepare undergraduate math majors to become elementary school teachers.  Congratulations!

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