Senator from N.M. Pushes Back On Healthcare OverhaulFebruary 8, 2017 |
by Morgan Lee, Associated Press
SANTA FE, N.M. — Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Udall highlighted the risks and uncertainties of efforts to overhaul the nation’s health care system by President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress during a speech Thursday to a joint session of the New Mexico state Legislature.
Udall said Republican vows to repeal the Affordable Care Act without articulating what might replace it are sowing fear among his constituents in New Mexico that coverage guarantees may be rolled back.
The second-term Senator from Santa Fe and former state attorney general also told state lawmakers that New Mexico would encounter enormous financial problems if liabilities for Medicaid patients shift toward state government under an overhaul.
New Mexico receives about $5 billion a year in federal matching funds for Medicaid health care for low-income and disabled residents. Lawmakers are grappling with a budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year amid plunging tax revenues linked to a downturn in the oil sector and a languid economy.
Nearly 15 percent of New Mexico’s 2.1 million residents have enrolled in Medicaid since coverage was expanded in 2014 under President Barack Obama’s health care law.
“You are grappling with balancing the state’s budget. New Mexico faces one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, coupled with one of slowest job growth rates,” Udall said. “Repeal is precisely the wrong prescription for New Mexico.”
Udall said he wants to preserve coverage of pre-existing conditions, prohibitions on lifetime benefit limits and free preventative health care services that are provided under President Obama’s signature health care law.
“We should work on a bipartisan basis to improve it, not throw it in the garbage and risk millions of people’s health and hurt the economy of New Mexico and throughout the country,” Udall said.
Concerns also were raised that a health care overhaul might shift Native Americans who chose Medicaid health coverage back to the federal Indian Health Service, where Udall said delays are common because of funding shortfalls.
Native Americans are eligible to receive care through the Indian Health Service, but many rely instead on Medicaid and the federal health exchange. More than 132,000 tribal members are enrolled in Medicaid in New Mexico, Udall said.
Separately, Udall announced he would vote against the confirmation of Tom Price as secretary of health and human services.
If confirmed by the full Senate, Price would lead Republican efforts to erase the Affordable Care Act. Udall said the White House’s nominee would have tremendous latitude to unravel key consumer protections under the act and that Price already has spearheaded efforts to gut federal funding to Medicaid.