by Bill Jordan
June 3, 2011

There has been a lot of media attention lately about the importance of Medicare to seniors, thanks to the U.S. House-passed budget proposal that would have eliminated Medicare as we know it. The vast majority of voters would agree that Congress should keep their hands off Medicare.

What’s getting less attention is that Medicaid is equally important to voters and especially important to voters in New Mexico. More than one in four New Mexico children, disabled adults, and elderly folks rely on Medicaid for their health care. Nursing home care and other long-term care is provided by Medicaid – not Medicare – and the program keeps thousands of New Mexico families from bankruptcy each year.

Currently, the state receives more than $2.6 billion a year from the federal government for this program and the Ryan budget – passed by the House, but thankfully, failed in the Senate – would have decimated it. According to analysis by Families USA, had the Ryan budget passed, New Mexico would have lost almost $20 billion in federal health care dollars over the next ten years. More than half – $11 billion – would have come from cuts to Medicaid. That loss of $11 billion in Medicaid is twice the size of our state’s annual budget!

Polling shows that support for Medicaid is almost as strong as it is for Medicare. Kaiser Health’s most recent tracking poll found that 60 percent of people say they want to keep Medicaid as it is. Only 13 percent said they would support major reductions in Medicaid spending. The poll calls into question the conventional wisdom that cuts to a program that helps low-income children and adults will be more easily accepted than cuts to a program that helps seniors.

While the Ryan budget was defeated, other budget proposals are yet to be considered. Let’s make sure our elected officials get the clear message, “Hands off Medicare and Medicaid!”

(Rep. Steve Pearce is the only member of New Mexico’s congressional delegation who voted in favor of the Ryan budget to cut Medicare and Medicaid. Reps. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan, and Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall voted against the Ryan budget.)

Bill Jordan is NM Voice’s Policy Director