The need for affordable, accessible health care for all New Mexicans, and indeed for all Americans, has never been more vital. More than 33 million Americans have filed unemployment claims since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic shutdown. Most of the nation’s working-age population has employer-based health insurance, so the pain and stress of losing a job have been compounded with losing insurance coverage during a historic health crisis. And Americans without health insurance are much more likely to delay or forgo needed care for chronic and acute conditions, a decision that could prove deadly during COVID-19.
New Mexicans deserve comprehensive access to quality and affordable health care services during the COVID-19 pandemic regardless of employment status. They need coverage and protection for pre-existing conditions – including COVID-19, whose current treatment and coverage could be denied if the Affordable Care Act is dismantled further. And they need lower prescription drug prices so they can afford essential, life-saving medicines like insulin. That’s why I am proud of my Democratic colleagues who’ve been fighting to improve the health of our state.
In this year’s legislative session, we passed and sent substantial health care bills to the governor. Like House Bill 100, which guarantees New Mexicans’ access to quality and affordable health plans even if the ACA were repealed. House Bill 292, which caps the cost of insulin at $25 per prescription and directs the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance to study how to reduce drug costs. And Senate Bill 1, which allows our state to create a prescription drug importation program from countries where drug costs can be 40% lower than domestic U.S. brands.
I am personally proud of several other bills that address the health care and service inequities for at-risk populations. In 2019 I co-sponsored bills to extend the scope of practice for certified nurse practitioners, midwives and clinical nurse specialists, so rural areas are better served; did away with the age restrictions and dollar limitations on health insurance coverage for the treatment of autism spectrum disorder; and created a fund to increase access to high-priority services like transportation, behavioral health and case management for seniors and adults with disabilities, including veterans.
There is no reason New Mexicans living on a limited or fixed income should be forced to choose between health care and their quality of life. This isn’t rocket science, but it takes understanding the value of affordable and quality health care over the maximization of profits for private health insurance and prescription drug companies.
We must continue our support of existing quality health insurance plans and fight to find new opportunities to ensure that all New Mexicans, no matter their insurance, stay healthy and safe. Thirty-two out of New Mexico’s 33 counties are medically underserved, and rural New Mexicans bear the brunt of the state’s doctor shortage. We must encourage health care professionals and practitioners to work in rural and low-income areas through enhanced training and expanding tax credits.
This is a challenging and confusing time for all New Mexicans. Peace of mind is in short supply. We must continue fighting for all New Mexicans’ right to access high-quality and affordable health care and erase some of their worries once and for all.