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Health Care Reform, New Mexico Style

New Mexico Sen. Dede Feldman

By Tracy Dingmann

In the wake of the intense misinformation campaign waged against the healthcare reform bill that passed earlier this year, it has taken the public some time to differentiate fact from fiction. But now that the American people are learning the truth about how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will affect their lives – the support is growing and the opposition is falling away. (See most recent Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll.)

New Mexico State Sen. Dede Feldman knows this well – that’s why she’s been working with other state legislators at a local and national level since June of 2009 to enact health care reform necessary to provide health care coverage for working families..

Sen. Feldman knows that things like closing the Medicare “donut hole” for seniors, allowing children up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ health care policies, giving tax credit to small businesses and holdinginsurance companies accountable by not allowing them to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions are all things most people want.

And that’s why, earlier this month, Sen. Feldman joined a national group of state legislators to file an amicus (friend of the court) brief in Virginia against the Virginia attorney general’s suit to nullify the health care law. The amicus brief was filed by the Progressive States Network and the Constitutional Accountability Center to support the federal government position that it has the right to make sure everyone is paying their fair share into the health system.

Lawsuits to Stop Health Care Reform

A number of state Attorneys General have filed suit to block the new health care law since it was passed six months ago. Proponents of the suits argue that Congress overstepped its constitutional limits when it included a provision in the law requiring that citizens purchase health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine.

It is interesting to see the suits filed against health care reform on constitutional grounds, because the federal government has always reserved the right to implement laws based on public health and safety, said Sen. Feldman. For example, the federal government has passed laws requiring seat belts and vaccinations in order to prevent premature death and disease, Feldman noted.

“We have given broad powers to the government to protect public health and safety,” she said.

In addition, most people would be surprised to learn that the federal health care reform bill is not a uniform mandate, but rather calls for enormous input from the states, to make sure the services and programs conform to their special needs.

New Mexico Style

For example, New Mexico’s health care is driven by the unique needs of its high Native American and Hispanic populations and by the rural nature and large size of the state, Feldman said.

As such, Feldman said she has been working for months with legislative working groups to make sure New Mexicans get what they need from the federal health care mandate. In fact, New Mexico is already ahead of the game in many respects because the State Legislature already passed laws requiring some aspects of health care reform, including allowing people to appeal their denial of health insurance coverage and barring insurance companies from kicking people off their rolls when they get sick (a practice called recission).

People who oppose being required to get health care don’t seem to understand that simply opting out of insurance or trying to make the required health care go away will not be cheaper for anyone, Feldman said.

People who opt out of insurance or regular health care end up costing everyone more, because they don’t get preventative care and often don’t see a doctor until they are very ill. Using emergency rooms for care is very expensive and the costs are passed along to everyone else, she said.

Feldman said she is looking forward to Sept. 23, when necessary provisions such as coverage of screenings, vaccinations and other preventative procedures for children and families; stopping insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, allowing 26-year-olds to stay on their parent’s insurance and barring insurance companies from recissions will become effective.

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