by Bill Jordan
June 19, 2012

The entire country is anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court ruling on ObamaCare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The decision will come any day and will have major consequences no matter whether the law is upheld or struck down.

No state has more at stake than New Mexico. New Mexico has the third highest rate of uninsured in the nation and that not only gives us poor health outcomes, but it also serves as a major drag on our economy. Our small businesses cannot compete when their health insurance rates are higher than those in other states because of our high rate of uninsured. If the law is upheld, we have more to gain than any other state because most everyone will become insured. If the law is struck down, we have the most to lose. Either way, the decision will require action and the big question will be, “What will our leaders do?”

If the law is upheld, it should be a cause for celebration and a call to kick preparations into high gear. The Governor should immediately move forward with full and aggressive implementation of the ACA because the big infusion of federal money will create jobs, stimulate our economy, and improve the health of so many New Mexicans. Anything short of full implementation will be a huge loss for New Mexico’s families, businesses, and economic well-being. Will the Governor order her Office of Health Care Reform to comply with the law and act quickly to establish a Health Insurance Exchange before the October 2013 deadline? The Governor vetoed a Health Insurance Exchange bill in 2011 that was a bipartisan compromise, saying she would create the Exchange with an Executive Order. It’s not clear that the Executive has that authority, and if we wait for Exchange legislation to be passed again in March of 2013 it will be too late to meet the October 2013 deadline, which is when states must have their Exchanges in place.

Will the executive budget request for next year reflect an increase in Medicaid funding to enroll the eligible children who are likely to enter the health care system with their low-income parents? Enrollment of children in New MexiKids has actually decreased since February 2011. The state’s Human Services Department claims that there isn’t enough money to improve enrollment, and the last two executive budgets have not asked for money to make health care available to more children. Will that change if the ACA is upheld by the court?

If the law is struck down, what will our leaders do to reduce New Mexico’s high rate of uninsured? Is there a plan on hold to improve the health of our people and the health of our economy? Or will those who have insurance continue to pay higher premiums to cover the costs of emergency care for those who don’t have insurance?

The ACA was signed into law more than two years ago.  The Supreme Court will rule any day. When it does, one way or the other, it should serve as a call to action. Let’s hope New Mexico is finally ready to act. No more excuses, no more delays, no more waiting. Our children and families and businesses deserve nothing less.

Bill Jordan is NM Voices’ Policy Director.
Our work on children’s health care is funded by: the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, First Focus, Voices for America’s Children, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.