June 25, 2015

New Mexico reactions to health care reform decision

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United States Supreme Court

In one of the most highly-anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decisions of the year, the country’s high court ruled that the law allowed for subsidies in states with federal exchanges as well as those with state exchanges.

SCOTUSNew Mexico Political Report asked for responses from members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation to the high profile decision that the U.S. Supreme Court released on Thursday morning.

President Barack Obama spoke in the White House Rose Garden, and said if the court had ruled against the Affordable Care Act, “America would have gone backwards.”

“Today, after more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or weaken this law; after a presidential election based in part on preserving or repealing this law; after multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court — the Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” Obama said.

The high court agreed with the Barack Obama administration that subsidies applied to states that used the federal health exchange as well as those who created their own state-based health exchanges. New Mexico has a state-based exchange but still uses the federal portal, as the Susana Martinez administration was unable to create a state-based web portal.

Delegation’s response

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said the decision “preserves the insurance policies of millions of Americans.”

“The Affordable Care Act has enabled tens of thousands of New Mexicans to get health insurance for the first time. It’s making our state healthier — and stronger economically,” Udall said in a statement following the vote. “Because of the ACA, millions of Americans are no longer one major illness away from bankruptcy, they’re no longer at risk of losing their health care if they get sick, they can no longer be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition, and millions of young people can stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26. I hope that with today’s decision, we can finally put aside talk of repeal and focus on moving forward and ensuring that all Americans can get health care when they need it.”

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said he was “very pleased” at the decision.

“Today’s decision reaffirms what we already knew; the ACA’s tax credits are constitutional,” Heinrich said. “Hopefully this decision means opponents of this law will stop wasting time on trying to repeal it. Tens of thousands of New Mexicans–some for the first time in their lives–are receiving high quality health care at a fair price because of the Affordable Care Act.”

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján called the decision ” a victory for millions of Americans who can now afford health insurance that provides them with the peace of mind that they are no longer one illness or one accident away from financial ruin.”

“Under the ACA, more than 16 million Americans have gained coverage, driving the nation’s uninsured rate down to its lowest level ever,” Luján said. “In New Mexico the uninsured rate has dropped nearly 5 percent, while more than 860,000 people can no longer be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition.”

Luján also described a staff worker in his office who was able to obtain health insurance that helped her with treatment for breast cancer.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham said that Congress should further expand healthcare access.

“The Supreme Court decision is an opportunity for Congress to come together to ensure that as many Americans as possible have access to affordable health care coverage,” Lujan Grisham said. “The time for litigation and symbolic attempts to repeal the law should be put to rest.

“Our goal must be to improve health care by making it easy to navigate, easy to access, and ensuring it is affordable in the long haul,” the second-term representative said in her statement.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce did not respond to requests for comment on the decision. Pearce has been opposed to the Affordable Care Act. This post will be updated if and when Pearce comments on the decision.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce did not initially respond to a request for comment, but did post a statement on his website.

Pearce said he is “disappointed by today’s ruling.”

“Until the day the bill can be fully replaced, Congress must do all it can to fix and repeal the most egregious sections that cause significant burden on New Mexican and American families,” Pearce said. “To date, eight different parts of the law have been repealed. ”

Udall was one of the Senators who voted to pass the law on Christmas Eve in 2009. Heinrich, then a member of the House, and Luján voted in support of the bill in 2010. Pearce and Lujan Grisham were not members of Congress in 2010 when the votes occurred. Then-Rep. Harry Teague, a Democrat, voted against the bill while then-Sen. Jeff Bingaman supported the legislation.

Political parties disagree

It’s no surprise that the Democratic Party and Republican Party had opposite views on the decision. Democrats have largely been supportive of the law while Republicans have opposed the law, including dozens of largely symbolic votes to repeal the law over the years.

“Because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 50,000 New Mexicans don’t have to choose between paying bills and going to the doctor,” Democratic Party of New Mexico chair Debra Haaland said in a statement. “Access to affordable health care should be a basic right and not an overwhelming financial burden for those who need medical attention. I am proud that our Supreme Court has once again affirmed that the Affordable Care Act is indeed the law of the land, regardless of what the GOP Presidential field may think. Thanks to today’s ruling Americans are happy to know their family, friends and neighbors will not lose their health insurance.”

The Republican Party of New Mexico declined to issue a statement. A spokesman deferred to Pearce and passed along the Republican National Committee statement.

The RNC statement said the decision showed the need for a Republican president.

“Hillary Clinton supports big government mandates and expanding the government’s reach into our healthcare system, maneuvers that have made our healthcare system worse off,” RNC chairman Reince Preibus said. “What you will not hear from Democrats today is any information on how to make healthcare more affordable at a time when premiums are getting more expensive.”

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