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Small, But Fervent, Group Protests Scrapping Healthcare Law in Downtown Toms River

A protest over the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act in downtown Toms River, Jan. 18, 2017. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

A protest over the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act in downtown Toms River, Jan. 18, 2017. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

A group of 16 protesters braved the darkness and chilly temperatures Wednesday night, carrying signs in opposition to a proposal that would potentially scrap the Affordable Care Act without a new healthcare policy ready to take its place.

Organized by New Jersey Citizen Action, a coalition of senior, labor, tenant and community organizations that focus on consumer protection issues, the group participated in a national series of protests against repealing the law. Most of the protests took place outside of congressional offices. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3) maintains an office inside the Toms River municipal building.

MacArthur was the only New Jersey Republican congress member to break with his party and vote against repealing the law, commonly known as Obamacare, without a replacement in place.

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“He needs to stay the course, and we’re hoping to send the message that he should do so and reach out to his fellow Republicans,” said Jerome Montes, one of the group’s organizers.

Many of the protesters represented local labor unions, but some, including Christine Luland of Toms River, heard about the protest and decided to join on her own.

“I have a daughter with autism and another family member with depression. I have a nephew with cystic fibrosis,” she said. “If the Affordable Care Act goes away, these are all pre-existing conditions. Our opportunity for healthcare further down the road would be gone.”

The law was a central issue to the campaign of President-Elect Donald Trump, who vowed to repeal and replace the law. Since its passage in 2009, the number of plans available under the law have dwindled while premiums and deductibles rose sharply. Still, there has been widespread support for some facets of the law, including no longer allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to pre-existing medical conditions and letting young people remain on their parents’ policies until age 26.

MacArthur, in a statement, said he voted against the instant repeal of the law because he felt it would be premature to do so without an alternative in place.

“Both parties have missed opportunities to fix our health care system — one of the greatest priorities of our time — and now we’re faced with an Obamacare system that is literally falling apart,” MacArthur said. “Skyrocketing premiums, disappearing insurance plans and out-of-control deductibles are failing the American people. I lost today, but I will keep fighting to carefully, rather than quickly, replace Obamacare, and make sure that all Americans can buy the health insurance they need and that nobody has the rug pulled out from under them.”

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