Chris Christie opposes Republican health care overhaul bill

Markets Associated Press

Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday he is opposed to a health care overhaul measure that fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate are pushing.

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Christie said he has been lobbied to support the measure but will not because it will take money away from states like New Jersey that expanded Medicaid.

"I can't support a bill that takes $3.9 billion away from the people of the state of New Jersey," Christie said Wednesday after an unrelated event tied to $200 million of new state spending on anti-opioid initiatives.

Christie cited a figure compiled by the nonpartisan Center on Budget Policy Priorities , but a separate independent study released by the consulting firm Avalere Health on Wednesday found that New Jersey would lose $10 billion from 2020 through 2026 if the Graham-Cassidy health care overhaul bill becomes law.

The study finds the bill would lead to an overall $215 billion cut to states in federal funding for health insurance, through 2026.

The legislation, named after Republican sponsors Sen. Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, would repeal major elements of former President Barack Obama's law. That includes the requirement for Americans to carry health coverage or face penalties and replaces them with block grants to the states.

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Christie previously said he favors block grants but said Wednesday the bill's provisions seemed designed to reward states that didn't expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and punish states like New Jersey, which did.

Under the Republican bill, states would have wide latitude in creating their own health systems and requirements and would be able to seek waivers from certain mandates including those related to coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Senators have only a narrow window to act under special budget rules that expire at the end of the month.

The Republican governor, who heads President Donald Trump's anti-opioid commission, is promoting his efforts to address the state's opioid epidemic, and his administration has used Medicaid money for treatment.

He predicted that the block-granting under the bill would take resources away from the opioid crisis, which the presidential commission estimates contributes to 142 drug overdose deaths a day.

"It would hurt everything," he said. "I don't think it's right to take this money away in this manner."