One disabled Albuquerque woman, Jeanne Hamrick, said she would not be able to afford prescription drug costs if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act during this judicial term. Hamrick spoke during a live phone conference hosted by Democratic U.S. Senator Tom Udall to let average residents around the state talk about what losing the ACA would mean for them. The Supreme Court will hear California v. Texas on Nov. 10. The case challenges the constitutionality of the individual mandate and, with the likely confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett establishing a new conservative bloc majority, the court could overturn the entire ACA.
Hamrick said that before the ACA went into effect in 2013, she was paying $100 each month for prescription medication on a social security budget.
U.S. Senate Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Thursday to move the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court to the full Senate. Democrats on the committee boycotted the vote and left posters of people who might be affected by the loss of the Affordable Care Act in their seats. One of the first cases Barrett will likely hear as a newly sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice will be a challenge to the ACA. Related: New SCOTUS conservative bloc could overturn ACA, with big impacts on NM
The Senate will vote on Barrett’s confirmation Monday. Senate Republicans need only a slim majority to confirm her.
If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act during the 2020-2021 judicial term, the result for New Mexicans could be catastrophic, according to various officials and experts. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear California v. Texas on November 10. If Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Monday, as is expected, this will be among the first cases she will hear as a Supreme Court justice. If she is confirmed, she will create a new 6-3 conservative bloc on the court bench which could lead to a ruling that the entire ACA is unconstitutional. If this happens, 20 million Americans could lose health insurance coverage, according to a report by the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
New Mexico women who need contraception are likely safe for now despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision which will allow private companies to opt out of providing insurance coverage for it, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico. A recent law passed in New Mexico enables women in the state to continue contraceptive coverage despite the court’s decision which now enables private companies to deny contraception coverage by citing moral or religious objections. But, Ellie Rushforth, reproductive rights attorney for the ACLU-NM warned, the future is uncertain. “It doesn’t mean we’re fully insulated from future issues related to this,” she said. The Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision on Wednesday in the case, Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make major reproductive health care decisions early next week. Monday and Tuesday will be the final two days this term that the justices will issue opinions, according to the Supreme Court’s blog. Historically, the court has handed down decisions on abortion on the last day of the session, Nancy Northup, executive director of the Center for Reproductive Rights said last month. But in this case, the court has two reproductive health care decisions to rule upon in the final days of the session. The two cases are June Medical Services LLC v. Russo and Trump v. Pennsylvania.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday protecting LGBTQ from workplace discrimination “further enshrines” protections New Mexico already put in place, said Adrian N. Carver. Carver, executive director of the nonprofit Equality New Mexico, said the state passed laws in 2003 and 2019 that protects most workers who identify as LGBTQ from workplace discrimination. But, he said, that doesn’t always mean people are genuinely protected. “Legal equality is very different from lived equality,” Carver said. Susan Powers, a transgender woman living in Albuquerque, agreed and said she lost two jobs because she came out.
Sparks flew between Republicans and Democrats Sunday during a lengthy debate on a health care tax bill that supporters say would help the uninsured. Passed by the House on a vote of 41 to 25, HB 278 would create a health care fund for New Mexicans who are uninsured. The bill would replace a federal tax that Congress repealed. The state health insurance tax would result in $99.1 million to go to a new “health care affordability fund” and the remaining $25.6 million would go to the general fund. Republicans tried twice to amend the bill to exempt small business owners from the bill.
Rural, communities of color and low-income New Mexicans in some areas of the state face greater barriers when deciding if, how and when to become parents. According to Power to Decide, a Washington D.C. based reproductive rights organization, 134,850 women between the ages of 13 and 44 live in a contraceptive desert in New Mexico. The nonprofit defines a contraceptive desert as a place where women lack reasonable access in their counties to a health center that offers the full range of contraceptive methods. Rachel Fey, director of public policy for Power to Decide, told NM Political Report this is important because women usually change contraceptive methods during their reproductive years. “People have the response, ‘What’s the problem? Go buy condoms. It’s no big deal.’ But it doesn’t work for everyone.
It was a moment of genuine bipartisanship at the House Ways and Means Committee in October, as Democratic and Republican sponsors alike praised a bill called the “Restoring Access to Medication Act of 2019.”
The bill, approved by the panel on a voice vote, would allow consumers to use their tax-free flexible spending accounts or health savings accounts to pay for over-the-counter medications and women’s menstrual products. Assuming it ultimately finds its way into law, the measure would also represent the latest piece of the Affordable Care Act’s financing to be undone. Over-the-counter medication had been eligible for preferred tax status before the ACA. But that treatment was eliminated as part of a long list of new taxes and other provisions to generate revenue. The measures were aimed primarily at higher-income earners to pay the 10-year, roughly $1 trillion cost of the health law.
What will remain of the Affordable Care Act in a year or two? Maybe very little, some New Mexico lawmakers worry. While Democrats in the state House of Representatives have talked a lot about expanding access to Medicaid, many are also trying to hold the line on the landmark and controversial health care law also known as Obamacare, bracing for big changes as 18 attorneys general challenge its constitutionality in federal court. House Democrats are sponsoring legislation that would write several provisions of the Affordable Care Act into New Mexico law with hopes that no matter what happens at the federal level, the state can keep in place some of the standards for covering mental health care, for example, and protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. “We’re in that group,” said state Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, a breast cancer survivor whose son has autism.