ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The number of uninsured New Mexico residents has been cut in half since the state expanded its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, so healthcare advocates are calling the move a success.
They add it has also been a positive step for some parts of the state’s economy. Barbara Webber, executive director with Health Action New Mexico, points to a recent study by Families USA that says more than half those added to the state’s Medicaid or Centennial Care Plan are employed.
“With the expansion of Medicaid, we’ve been able to bring on 230,000 adults,” says Webber. “And then you add that together with 50,000 people who have come on through the Health Exchange, we’ve brought over 20 percent of our population into healthcare coverage.”
The federal government is picking up the Medicaid tab through next year, but starting in 2017, the state will begin to pay part of the bill and no one yet knows how much that will cost. So, critics of the expansion believe it will be too much, and that other needed programs may have to be cut to find the extra money.
Webber says before the expansion, people in trades such as construction, food service and transportation made too much money to qualify for regular Medicaid, but too little for subsidies that help them pay for coverage through the Health Exchange. She adds the expansion is a lifeline for thousands of people, but also an indication of the state’s overall economy.
“We have over 800,000 people on Medicaid,” says Webber. “When you look at it, it’s almost half the population of New Mexico, is on Medicaid now. That is mostly reflective of our economy and the lack of jobs that are available for people.”
Webber says the Medicaid expansion has had a positive impact on healthcare fields in New Mexico, including clinics and hospitals in rural areas where they are a big part of the local economy.