SANTA FE, N.M. — Gov. Susana Martinez is saying no thanks to President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul – at least the way it’s currently structured.
Along with 28 other Republican governors, Martinez signed a letter to ranking Republican congressional members earlier this week calling for a full repeal of the controversial federal health care law, which is scheduled to take effect in 2014.
New Mexico already has one of the nation’s highest rates of Medicaid enrollment – more than one in four state residents are now enrolled – and Martinez said she fears the new federal law’s mandate for everyone to have insurance coverage will make it difficult to ensure affordable health care in the future.
“It’s going to become so expensive, and we want it to be sustainable,” Martinez told the Journal on Thursday. “If we don’t make decisions right now that allow us to have it go on for generation to generation … then we’re going to spend an awful lot of money, and it’s not going to be sustainable.”
Martinez has spoken out, both on the campaign trail and since taking office in January, about the perceived burdens posed by the landmark federal overhaul. However, the GOP letter is one of her strongest statements to date in favor of repealing the law.
The stance also puts her at odds with four of the five members of the state’s congressional delegation, who voted in favor of the legislation.
In New Mexico, Martinez’s administration has embarked on its own Medicaid redesign plan to keep spending in check and give the state more flexibility. The Human Services Department plans to hold statewide hearings on the proposed redesign this summer, starting July 6 in Clovis.
The state-level proposal has gotten a chilly reception from health care advocates and a number of Democratic state lawmakers.
Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque, said Martinez’s reaction to the federal health care law, combined with the state’s pending Medicaid redesign, concerns her.
“A repeal of the federal law means they don’t want to add any people to Medicaid in 2014,” Feldman said Thursday.
The federal health care overhaul is expected to add an additional 130,000 to 175,000 New Mexico residents to Medicaid rolls, according to state health officials. The federal government will pick up the tab for that expansion, at least initially.
A Martinez spokesman said the first-term governor is worried that the federal law will impose numerous burdens and new costs on New Mexico businesses.
However, Martinez acknowledged Thursday she supports some of the law’s aims, including mandatory coverage of pre-existing conditions.
“Sure, there are reasons for there to be health care reform and parts of it are good, but to have Medicaid and to have it become so expensive right now that it doesn’t last beyond us, then we have really ignored a future population,” she said.
Journal staff writer Sean Olson contributed to this report.
Cutline – MARTINEZ: Joined with 28 other governors