ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — The Supreme Court ruling upholding most of the Affordable Care Act will have a big effect in New Mexico where more than one of every five residents currently lives without health insurance.
While the Supreme Court answered one question nationally, its decision opened the door to a debate about Medicaid in each and every state.
In New Mexico, where about 400,000 people overall lack health coverage, about 170,000 of them would have been eligible for an expanded Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act starting in 2014.
The expanded group would have consisted of single adults who make less than $15,000 a year.
But one part of the court's decision sank that mandatory expansion by leaving the decision up to individual states.
That means the Legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez will have to decide whether New Mexico will extend Medicaid to the low-income residents not currently eligible for the program.
That will be costly. New Mexico's Human Services Department estimates covering the expansion would cost nearly $500 million from 2014-2020 with the cost increasing every year.
"The pressure's probably going to be to expand it, and the challenge is going to be can we expand it within our pocket book?" Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, said.
Martinez told KRQE News 13 she's concerned that adding that many more New Mexicans to the Medicaid program will make it unsustainable and ultimately put the safety net of the neediest in our state at risk.
"When you grow that pool by that number and don't have the budget for it, you are sure to drain the funding that is available," Martinez said.
But some New Mexicans say the ruling will save lives and save money in the long run through preventative care. Bernalillo County taxpayers pay $90 million a year in taxes to cover treatment for the uninsured.
"This really gives us the opportunity to get people health insurance and health coverage through these provisions," Dr. Dan Derkson, a family physician, told News 13. "It's a huge opportunity for us."
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.