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Health care advocates oppose GOP plan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico residents’ robust participation in Medicaid means that some of the proposed changes to the federal Affordable Care Act would be felt in the state.

Local health care access advocates gathered Wednesday to ask New Mexicans to call their political leaders and urge them to oppose the Republican-led effort to undo parts of Obamacare in a bill called the American Health Care Act. The House is set to vote on that bill today.

“We need to push back against this proposal,” said Colin Baillio, outreach facilitator for the nonprofit Health Action New Mexico. “Health care is really expensive, and the other option is leaving people out in the cold.”

Health insurance for 757,248 New Mexicans, as of June 2016, was paid for by state and federal Medicaid funds, according to the healthinsurance.org, a national insurance information group. The federal government gives about $4 to the state for each $1 the state spends on Medicaid. In 2016-2017, that was $4.36 billion in federal money for New Mexico’s $1.24 billion spent.

The preliminary Republican proposal would slash some of that funding. That would leave New Mexico having to pay some of the cost and triggering a state rule that would automatically cancel coverage for others.

Exactly who would be affected by the cuts isn’t clear.

“It’s kind of wait and see, but I can tell you it may impact me,” said Adam Shand, an Albuquerque man whose extensive medical and disability-related living expenses are covered by Medicaid.

He receives home health and living services, which he says enable him to keep a full-time job, and without insurance would cost him $350 to $450 a month, which he couldn’t afford.

Some home health services, along with some addiction recovery services, are on the chopping block in the proposed plan.

Abuko Estrada, staff attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, said that although a drop in federal Medicaid funds to the state would affect individuals, it would also affect the state economy.

“More than 50,000 jobs are directly funded by Medicaid,” he said, citing a November 2016 report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico.

That report says that Medicaid funding paid directly for 52,000 jobs, meaning those employees treated patients covered by Medicaid or worked for programs that received Medicaid payments.

The report says the Medicaid money also “catalyzes $7.7 billion in economic activity and generates over $200 million in tax revenue for the state general fund.”

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