Menendez Huddles with NJ’s African-American Clergy Leaders on Efforts to Protect the Affordable Care Act

Menendez Huddles with NJ’s African-American Clergy Leaders on Efforts to Protect the Affordable Care Act


NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that oversees federal healthcare policy, sat down yesterday with local African-American clergy leaders from across New Jersey to discuss the current status of the healthcare debate in Washington, and the impact repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would have on their community.  By all estimations, the Senate Republican healthcare plan would be devastating for the health of African Americans and other vulnerable communities in the country.

“All of the leaders at today’s meeting agreed: It’s simply bad policy to ask struggling, working families to sacrifice their healthcare, their children’s well-being and their family’s livelihood to pay for even more tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, which is exactly what will happen under the Republican healthcare plan,” said Sen. Menendez.  “This is a crucial moment when we need to lift every voice to make Senate Republicans hear what our nation’s diverse communities have to say about their assault on our healthcare system.  I’m proud to stand with the African-American community and with every worker, parent, senior citizen and concerned New Jerseyan looking to protect the progress we’ve made to make healthcare more affordable for themselves and their families.  Our strength is in our numbers, and I thank these clergy leaders for committing to use their voices to help shine a light and keep up the pressure in our fight against this cruel bill.”



The Senate Republicans’ proposed health bill would leave an estimated 22 million more Americans uninsured by 2026, 15 million by next year, and cause premiums to skyrocket for middle-class Americans nearing retirement.  Written behind closed doors without any public scrutiny, the Republican plan also strips access to basic coverage, increases out-of-pocket expenses, and punishes those who need affordable healthcare the most by eviscerating Medicaid – disproportionately affecting communities of color. 

Nationally, about 28% of African Americans receive their health coverage through Medicaid, including 57% of black children.  Additionally, the Republican legislation would eliminate required coverage of essential benefits like emergency, preventative and mental health care, prescription drugs, maternity care, and protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Among the clergy who attended the roundtable discussion were:

  • Rev. Barry Graham, Cannon Baptist Church - Paterson
  • Rev. Lanel Guyton, St. Matthew AME Church – Orange
  • Rev. John Harris, Galilee Baptist Church – Trenton
  • Rev. Gregory Jackson, Mt. Olive Baptist Church – Hackensack
  • Rev. Jethro James, Paradise Baptist Church – Newark
  • Presiding Elder Rev. J. Stanley Justice, AME Church 
  • Rev. Reginald McRae, Grant AME Church – Trenton
  • Rev. Ronald Slaughter, St. James AME Church – Newark
  • Rev. H. Gene Sykes, Friendship Baptist Church - Bayonne
  • Rev. Semaj Vanzant, Sr., Second Baptist Church – Asbury Park

While discussing what is at stake for New Jersey’s African-American community, the senator cited statistics by The Urban Institute showing that the Senate Republican healthcare bill would more than triple the number of uninsured non-Hispanic African Americans in New Jersey by 2022 – from 64,000 under the ACA to 210,000.

The roundtable discussion came on the same day Sen. Menendez held a press conference with local and state leaders at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center to discuss the devastating impact the Senate Republican healthcare plan would also have on tackling New Jersey’s opioid crisis and the delivery of care in the state.

Sen. Menendez has met in recent weeks with New Jerseyans who stand to lose their healthcare coverage under the GOP repeal bill.  He heard directly from constituents last month at the Newark Community Health CenterAhead of Mother’s Day, the senator focused on the impact of the Republican healthcare plan on womenHe met patients with preexisting conditions and their families during a recent visit to Hackensack University Medical Center.  In March, the senator discussed the impact of Medicaid cuts with constituents and advocates at the Southern Jersey Family Medical Center (SJFMC), a federally qualified health center in Burlington City.