Court Will Have More Than Fate of Health Care in Hands
Next week the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. A few months ago, I, along with 500 other state legislators from around the country, filed an amicus brief supporting the joint state-federal Medicaid program and Congress’ ability to require insurance coverage – both at issue in the case.
I am not a lawyer, but it doesn’t take one to know that the challenge to the Affordable Care Act has more to do with politics than it has to do with the Constitution.
It’s been the law of the land for the past two years. It has been upheld by judges across the ideological spectrum. On a personal level, it’s already working for New Mexico families – and, on an economic level, if the Medicaid portion of the law is upheld, it may bring as much as $454 million in funding to the state by 2014.
The additional Medicaid funding is not affected by the cuts triggered by Congress’ failure to cut federal spending last year in the wake of the debt limit debacle. That should be music to the ears of New Mexicans, who stand to lose as much as $1.3 billion from these automatic cuts in 2013 and as many as 20,000 jobs, according to the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
Why? Because these job losses may be offset by new jobs created by Medicaid expansion in the law. One estimate is that the ACA will ultimately generate between 38,000 and 47,000 new jobs in New Mexico’s health care sector.
Beyond the economic stimulus, New Mexico is already reaping the benefits. More than 23,000 university students are able to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until they reach 26.
Over 850 New Mexicans with pre-existing conditions like cancer or diabetes are now obtaining insurance through the high-risk pool set up in the state thanks to the new law. Medicare recipients are getting discounts on their medications and free annual checkups. Co-pays have been eliminated for preventive screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies, which can be lifesaving. Primary care clinics and school-based heath centers have been expanded, and training programs for nurses, physicians’ assistants and other needed medical professionals have been boosted.
These and other programs to help employers with early retirees, support prevention programs in the Department of Health or provide home health programs for people with disabilities and infants – all have happened because the state has already received over $109 million from the act, coming in grants to universities, private institutions and state facilities over the past two years.
During that time – in spite of partisan rhetoric – the state has been quietly implementing the Accountable Care Act. The N.M. Office of Health Reform is now considering applications for funding to develop an IT system for the state’s Health Insurance Exchange, using $32 million it applied for and received in the fall.
These funds would not all disappear if the repealers have their way. Much has already been spent. But going back on the act’s Medicaid expansion will cost New Mexicans much-needed coverage and the state will pay in lost jobs.
Overturning the mandate that everyone should have insurance will take us back to square one: a state where one quarter of the population does not have health insurance and those who do pay the largest percent of their incomes on it in the nation.
Premium increases would be only one aspect of a world of hurt. Patients and policyholders could once more be dropped upon discovery of pre-existing conditions or medical expenses that exceed annual or lifetime caps, which could be re-instated if repealers achieved a total victory.
That would be bad news for New Mexico and the nation. I hope instead the Supreme Court will put partisan squabbling to an end and move health care reform forward, not backward.
Other Big News: Dr. Dan Derksen has been forced out as the head of NM's Office of Health Care Reform in the wake of a change in direction from the administration. Sec. Squires has decided to proceed no further with the NM Health Exchange-- for ideological reasons, reportedly-- and has stopped work on contracting out the $34 million in federal funds that Derksen got fot that purpose. Check it out at: http://m.santafenewmexican.com/iphonetest2/Health-care-reform-Official-resigns-over-perceived-lag-in-progr
The Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments on Monday-Wednesday of next week on ACA. NPR will be having rebroadcasts in the afternoon and a program at 7 p.m. Monday-Wednesday. Here's an article from the NYT on the Medicaid issue they will be considering. Go to : http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/us/politics/far-reaching-implications-in-states-health-care-law-challenge.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120324