With the House of Representatives pushing to pass its replacement of the Affordable Care Act by Thursday, opponents are stepping up efforts to defeat it, including the release of a report that shows nearly a half million New Jerseyans could lose their health insurance within three years.

The liberal New Jersey Policy Perspective report says the end of the Medicaid expansion and cuts in tax credits that help people with lower incomes afford premiums would leave 1.25 million without health insurance in 2020 – compared with 770,000 in 2015 and 1.16 million before the ACA coverage began in 2013.

The report finds that if New Jersey were to maintain current Medicaid eligibility levels after the increased funding from Washington is scaled back as proposed, it would cost the state an additional $8.8 billion over the next decade.

Republican governors in Arkansas, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio have spoken out against the bill being considered this week by Congress to replace the Affordable Care Act. Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t – to the chagrin of New Jersey Democrats.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez said Christie was influential in Donald Trump’s campaign and should call the president to oppose plans to cut Medicaid funding to states, including shifting from an entitlement to a per-capita block grant.

“He should pick up the phone, call that cell phone that he has and tell him this is not good public policy and it doesn’t work for the citizens of New Jersey,” Menendez said.

State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, said he’s only heard Christie broach the topic once.

“The governor should be as loud as he can be. He’s been outspoken on other issues in the past, we all know. But he’s been rather silent on this,” Vitale said.

Asked Tuesday about the NJPP report, Christie blasted the organization for a “ridiculous report” that criticizes a Republican policy initiative but didn’t comment on the substance.

“I don’t care to respond to specifics of it because most of what they say – I’ll not say 'all' because I’m sure every once in a while they actually stumble into saying something correct. They don’t mean to, but they stumble into it,” Christie said. “But I’m not going to respond substantively to what they’ve got to say because they’re completely full of it.”

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. 6th District, said the projected increase in the number of uninsured may come faster than NJPP’s report suggests because of changes to the Republican health-care bill made Monday that cut back further on Medicaid. But he says those changes might make repeal less likely to pass the Senate.

“The Senate has basically said that their biggest concern is Medicaid because a lot of the senators are getting input from their governors saying this is a disaster because states aren’t going to get funding for Medicaid, they’re going to throw people off the rolls,” Pallone said. “It’s a serious question about whether or not this could ever pass the Senate. This bill could never pass the Senate because they’re making the situation for Medicaid even worse.”

Menendez said he’s not so sure, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Tuesday that the bill would be posted for a vote next week if it passes the House.

“Some have said this bill is so terrible it might be dead on arrival in the Senate, but I have to tell you this, I am worried because capping Medicaid spending has been at the top of the Republican wish list for years,” Menendez said.

Officials from The Arc of New Jersey are in Washington this week to press for the defeat of the House bill. Beverly Roberts, its director of mainstreaming medical care, said people with developmental and intellectual disabilities account for 17 percent of Medicaid enrollment in New Jersey but 44 percent of its spending.

“If the funding for these vitally important services is altered, the result would either be the elimination of some of these services or very long waiting lists,” Roberts said.

Among New Jersey’s Republican congressmen, Rep. Tom MacArthur told the Washington Post he will support the bill, satisfied that changes being made it to would help those over 50 and the disabled. Rep. Leonard Lance doesn’t want to vote on a bill the Senate won’t pass.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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