As the new health reform law continues to take effect, I held a roundtable discussion in South Brunswick last week with senior administration officials and patient advocates to ask: What's working well? What can be improved? What further steps need to be taken?
I heard, of course, some concerns about the HealthCare.gov website, which has experienced technical difficulties in its early weeks. As the administration works to fix the website in the weeks ahead, help is available to apply for health insurance over the phone at 1-800-318-2596.
I also heard a great deal of optimism about what the law is already doing. The expansion of Medicaid is working very well, for instance: about 300,000 New Jerseyans are expected to be covered. In Central New Jersey alone, more than 6,000 young adults have gained health insurance through their parents' plan. More than 100,000 seniors have gained access to Medicare preventive services without co-pays. And about 100,000 uninsured citizens are expected next year to gain health insurance for the first time.
Marriage Equality in New Jersey
This is a great moment for New Jersey. After so many years of discrimination, injustice, and legal uncertainty, same-sex couples finally have the right to marry in our state -- and over the past few days, more than a few couples have already exercised that right.
The New Jersey Supreme Court's ruling recognized, rightly, that the only way to treat all families equally is to allow gay and lesbian couples access to the institution of marriage. Civil unions aren't good enough; they deny legally married spouses access to such basic rights as Social Security spousal benefits, health insurance, and fair immigration consideration.
The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling earlier this year to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act was, I believe, so strong that every state sooner or later will have to follow New Jersey's lead and treat all marriages equally.
White House Tours Available Once Again
As you may have heard, earlier this year the White House suspended all public tours due to budget cuts. Now, there's good news: White House tours are once again available. If you are visiting Washington, D.C., I would be glad to try to help you secure tickets. I highly recommend that you request this tour up to six months in advance to increase the chances of availability. Requests are required six weeks prior to your trip to allow for the required security processing.
You may request tour tickets on my website. I encourage you also to consider requesting, via the same link, a tour of the U.S. Capitol and the U.S. House of Representatives Gallery -- a tour that is more inspiring and that my staff can lead for you and your family on fairly short notice.