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Legislators got key protections on books

It’s no secret that access to health care in our country is under attack, leaving patients and their loved ones in a constant state of fear. The fear and uncertainty was recently brought to the forefront with a (July 15) article written by Journal staff writer Scott Turner, “ACA challenge worries those with pre-existing conditions.”

The ACA continues to be challenged by Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration and the current battleground lies in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. But as state lawmakers we are also fighting with everything we have to secure health care access for all New Mexicans, and we made significant strides this year.

Lack of access to health care is truly a life-or-death matter for many New Mexicans across our state.

As we stepped into the last legislative session, we asked ourselves, “What are some of the top concerns in our communities if the ACA were to be repealed?” We found that New Mexicans are worried about being denied access to health care for having a pre-existing condition, and being denied insurance coverage for contraception.

We both fought hard to pass bills that have been signed into law that will now safeguard patients, even if the ACA is dismantled or completely repealed.

The law to protect people with pre-existing conditions that we passed now makes it illegal for any health care insurance company in New Mexico to deny a person health insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Over 330,000 New Mexicans under the age of 65 live with pre-existing conditions – including asthma, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

This state law to protect people with pre-existing conditions means that New Mexicans born with diabetes, like little Gabby Arias from Rio Rancho, cannot be denied health care coverage – even if the ACA is repealed. However, we knew this would not alleviate all problems that those with pre-existing conditions face. That’s why we added other protections from the ACA including coverage of essential benefits, prescription drugs and the prohibition of gender-based premiums.

There is still more work to do, but this is a good start for the health of New Mexican families.

We were able to safeguard another essential part of health care – contraception. We passed a law that ensures that health care insurance companies in our state must continue to cover the full range of contraceptive options for men and women, without out-of-pocket costs or medically unnecessary restrictions, even if the ACA changes. Our contraception law also requires insurance companies in New Mexico to cover up to a six-month supply of contraception at once.

Going into this previous legislative session our top priority was to protect all New Mexicans from Republican attacks on health care. As women and mothers to adult children with pre-existing conditions, this is personal. The fight for access to health care is not over, and we know we have more work to do. But we will not back down, and we will not stop until every New Mexican has access to quality health care – because health care is a right, not a privilege.

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