ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — The Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act has major implications for New Mexico. The key part of the decision appears to be the one part of the health care overhaul that was overturned. The justices ruled that states cannot be forced to expand their Medicaid programs to cover everyone who can't afford insurance.
That provision is expected to lead to a big fight between state leaders. The ACA gives states the option to decide if they want to cover individuals at 133 percent above the poverty line, effective in 2014. In New Mexico, that would mean 170,000 people, or people who make less than $15,000 a year, would be newly eligible.
"It's going to be very expensive," said Gov. Susana Martinez.
Gov. Martinez claims New Mexico can't afford the estimated $83 million a year, or nearly $500 million from 2014-2020. New Mexico already pays close to $1 billion a year to insure the sick and poor.
"When you grow that pool by that number and don't have the budget for it, you are sure to drain the funding available," said Martinez.
But supporters of expanding Medicaid claim it will actually save money. By their estimate, the average family that has insurance pay an extra $3,000 a year to cover those who don't.
And according to officials at UNM Hospital, a third of the patients treated there last year had no health insurance. The bill for treating them was nearly $200 million. Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque, said taxpayers end up covering the cost.
"People don't realize they are already paying for the cost of care for the uninsured in the emergency rooms through their tax dollars that go into their indigent funds and their higher premiums," said Feldman. "They are paying because the insurance companies are shifting the cost of those that don't have insurance to their paying customers. That's you and I."
Bernalillo County residents pay $90 million a year in property taxes to UNM Hospital, which is used to pay for operating costs and the medical bills for uninsured patients.
Supporters argue the burden could be reduced if everyone had Medicaid or some other insurance, but they don't know by how much.
Gov. Martinez said there are some good parts of the health care law, such as the provision that allows people 25 and younger to stay on their parents' health plans. That affects about 26,000 New Mexicans. Martinez also said she supports the measure that forbids insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
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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.