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Delegation united on support for ACA

Debates over the future of health care in the U.S. took place in Congress and a courtroom in New Orleans last week.

House Democrats squabbled over the issue of Medicare for All during a committee meeting, and the Trump administration and Republican state attorneys general filed papers with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals supporting a federal district court ruling that struck down the Affordable Care Act. Democratic state attorneys general and the U.S. House appealed that ruling.

There isn’t much debate, however, among members of the New Mexico congressional delegation about their hopes for the future of health care.

Four of the five – Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Deb Haaland, all Democrats – have either sponsored Medicare for All legislation or voiced support for it.

Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, also a Democrat, has not endorsed any Medicare for All proposal, her office said.

And all five voiced concerns about the future of ACA, the fate of which could ultimately be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“First and foremost, we’ve got to protect what we have, and that is the Affordable Care Act,” Heinrich said. If a decision to strike down the ACA is upheld, he said, it would “destabilize” the economy and leave thousands of New Mexicans without coverage.

Udall voiced similar concerns, saying he was focused on “protecting New Mexicans’ health care, and fighting back against this administration’s repeated attempts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and take away health care from hundreds of thousands of people in our state.”

“If it’s struck down,” Torres Small said of the ACA in an earlier interview, “it would destabilize our health care system if an acceptable alternative is not in place.”

Heinrich said health care “should be a right in a first-world country.”

He co-sponsored Medicare for All legislation with Udall last year, but he said he was open “to exploring many options.”

Udall echoed sentiments about health care being a human right.

“While we have taken important steps to improve our health care system, insurance remains far too expensive for too many families, which is why I am a co-sponsor of Medicare for All legislation,” Udall said.

Luján has sponsored legislation similar to the Medicaid Buy-In proposal considered by the New Mexico Legislature earlier this year.

“A state public option would make real strides in our fight for universal coverage,” Luján said. “That’s why 14 states are already considering using a Medicaid Buy-In to close their coverage gaps and save families money. We’ve seen tremendous progress around this idea in New Mexico.”

Critics of Medicare for All proposals raise questions about the cost. But members of the delegation believe Congress can find a way to pay for the programs.

“I believe we can take a similar approach to what we did for the Affordable Care Act,” Luján said. “I believe we can do a better job than the Republicans did with the tax scam, which added more than a trillion dollars to the deficit.”

Udall said funding mechanisms can be debated “in a responsible way, and revisiting the recently passed Republican tax bill – which primarily benefited multinational corporations and the most wealthy Americans – is a good place to start.”

Heinrich said concerns about the cost of programs should not keep proposals from being considered.

Udall said studies show that a Medicare For All system would save people money compared to the insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs “by reducing the rising prices of prescription drugs and other health care services and significantly lowering administrative costs throughout the system.”

Haaland agreed, saying Medicare for All would “lower health costs, so no one has to break the bank to see a doctor.”

Scott Turner: sturner@abqjournal.com

 

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