Obamacare to the rescue in Atlantic City

Tom Moran/Star Ledger
Friday, September 5, 2014

All six Republicans in Congress who represent New Jersey have voted over and over to repeal Obamacare.

So I have a request for them: Go to Atlantic City and explain those votes to the 8,000 casino workers who are losing their jobs, and in most cases, their health insurance.

These poor souls are lining up every day outside a packed room on the fourth floor of the Atlantic City Convention Center, where they are signing up for coverage under Obamacare in droves.

“We had about 200 people the first day, and the numbers are continuing to climb,” says Maura Collinsgru of New Jersey Citizen Action.

A single mom with two young children arrived on the verge of tears.

She had lost her job after a decade and her health insurance went with it. She had breast cancer a year ago and was terrified she wouldn’t be able to get the drugs she needs to keep the cancer at bay.

“We helped her out and she was so grateful,” says Robin Stockton, one of a few dozen workers helping these folks navigate the system. “She cried and cried, and hugged us.”

It was like that all week and it will go on this week. The navigators, a motley mix of volunteers and government contractors, were taking names for a waiting list. They had two dozen computers to work with, all of them busy, all day.

“Obamacare might not be a cure for everything in the health system, but for the first time losing your job does not have to mean losing insurance coverage,” Collinsgru said.

That is the uniquely American double-whammy. We are the only major country that attaches health coverage to a job. And it happened mostly because of a historical quirk: In 1943 the War Labor Board ruled that the war-time wage freeze did not apply to fringe benefits. So employers lured workers by offering health insurance.

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