Here are the remarks I made Thursday on the steps of the Federal Courthouse, celebrating with other supporters.
To read the whole decision go to http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-393c3a2.pdf
June 28 was a great day for the nation, and New Mexico in particular. The Supreme Court decision was a clear victory for the Affordable Care Act. Both the mandate and the Medicaid expansion were upheld, and there can be no doubt that ObamaCare is the law of the land. Also upheld is the principle that yes, Congress CAN act when there is a national crisis—like the one we have with health care cost, lack of access and affordable insurance.
It is a victory for people who are sick, with cancer, MS, heart disease, asthma and other chronic conditions. They can rest easier knowing that insurance companies cannot turn them down, jack up their rates due to an illness that are unlucky enough to have.
It is a victory for consumers now subject to abusive insurance practices that limit lifetime and annual benefits or rescind their policies altogether when they dare to get sick… and for consumers who were overcharged by their insurance companies now due for a refund of the profits that were previously going to CEO salaries or administrative expenses.
It is a victory for prevention, for primary care, for reforming the delivery of medical care to increase quality and bend the cost curve.
It is a victory for students, like the 24,000 in New Mexico who have already signed up to stay on their parent’s insurance policies, because it is cheaper.
It is a victory for women who will no longer be charged more for the same service that men receive, or not covered at all when it comes to “female problems.”
It is a victory for seniors who will continue to save an average of $600 a year on their prescriptions, and enjoy fewer co-pays and get free preventive screenings.
But we don’t have time to rest on this victory. It is now time for New Mexico—the legislature and the Governor to work together to implement the law. With the second largest percentage of uninsured people in the country, we have so much to gain. Foremost is better health for New Mexicans, and a reduction of the disparities between those who have insurance and those who don’t, who just happen to be a higher proportion of Hispanics, Native Americans and African Americans. A Medicaid expansion, handsomely financed by the federal government, could cover 150,000 more New Mexicans as early as 2014. The increased services could create as many as 40,000 new jobs and $888,000 millions in tax revenue to stimulate our state economy, according to one state economist.
Rather than re-fighting old political battles, I’m encouraged that the Martinez administration is finally moving forward with the Health Insurance Exchange, and restructuring the Medicaid program. The revamped program will fit in nicely with an expansion, which, although financed 90% by the federal government, will necessitate some state funds. Just how much it will cost is a matter of dispute. At a recent Health and Human Services Committee hearing the administration alleged that it would cost $500 million. An independent study, however, conducted by the Hilltop Institute, says it will cost $40 million when savings from other programs are accounted for.
Is it worth it? During the time I’ve served in the legislature, one of the only things about health care that there seemed to be consensus on was this: the state must maximize its Medicaid match to provide for its citizens. I am confident this consensus exists in the medical community, among insurers, providers and advocates. Do we really contemplate thumbing our nose at the federal funds when the people of New Mexico are in such great need? I hope not.