A bill that backers have said would lower insurance premiums and provide subsidies to help individuals and small businesses with health care cost passed the House 43 to 25 Monday. HB 122, sponsored by House Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, will place a surtax on insurance companies if it passes. The tax would begin in January 2022 but the benefit would begin in January 2023, Armstrong said. The tax would create a health care affordability fund to reduce health care premiums for New Mexico residents who receive insurance through the New Mexico Health Care Exchange.
Armstrong said it would also help small businesses that offer health insurance because an employee with a high-cost health problem, such as cancer, could raise the premiums for the rest of the employees. But the state would be able to offer a program to small businesses that would cover the high cost of that one employee.
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.
Albuquerque single mom Allyssa Garcia said she faces homelessness if the state doesn’t create a rent relief fund program to help residents like her during the pandemic. Garcia is not alone, said Lindsay Cutler, attorney for the nonprofit the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty. Related: Legislators push to get bill heard on rent relief, thousands will be affected
Garcia works as a home health aid and with three young children, ages 7, 10 and 14, she struggled before the pandemic began. Her rent is $725 a month, utilities included. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average home health worker earns $24,940 a year.
A report by the Urban Institute found that homelessness in Albuquerque has nearly quadrupled since 2013. In 2013 there were 144 homeless in Albuquerque but in 2019 there were 567, according to the report.
The City of Albuquerque funded and assisted with the nonprofit research organization’s report, which was released Wednesday. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller devoted his daily press conference to discussing the report and called the report’s findings “sobering.”
Albuquerque Deputy Director of Housing and Homelessness Lisa Huval said the pandemic is “likely to exacerbate housing instability.”
“More households are struggling,” she said. Keller mentioned that the city’s West Side Shelter went from winter only availability to year-round availability for the city’s homeless shortly after he took office as one way the city has worked to help those who need it to have a bed to sleep in. The city operates the West Side Shelter, which is near the Double Eagle Airport.
As the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress look to scale back Medicaid, many voters and state lawmakers across the country are moving to make it bigger. On Nov. 7, Maine voters approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Advocates are looking to follow suit with ballot measures in Utah, Missouri and Idaho in 2018. Virginia may also have another go at expansion after the Legislature thwarted Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s attempt to expand Medicaid.
The “groundbreaking research” Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry commissioned on crime — the city’s No. 1 issue — may sit on a shelf unused when his successor takes office Dec. 1. Why? The two candidates headed for a mayoral runoff election next month, two-term Republican city councilor Dan Lewis and Democratic state Auditor Tim Keller, said the information about crime concentration likely won’t guide their crime-fighting plans if elected.