Thursday, July 26, 2012

Luján: New Reports Show Affordable Care Act Is Saving Seniors Money on Prescription Drugs and Reduces the Deficit

Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District highlighted two new reports that were recently released on the impact that the Affordable Care Act is having on New Mexico’s seniors as well as the effect it will have on the deficit.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released data showing that health insurance reform has already saved New Mexico seniors on Medicare $18,751,250 on prescription drugs. A report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the Affordable Health Care act will reduce the deficit by $109 billion over ten years.

“Thirty-three times House Republicans have voted to repeal the health care law. Thirty-three times House Republicans have voted to increase the deficit and force seniors to pay more for their prescription drugs,” Congressman Luján said. “In addition to the many other benefits – such as ending discrimination for pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health care plan until age 26 – these reports make it clear that the people of New Mexico have much to gain through the Affordable Care Act and that they have already have more money in their pockets thanks to lower prescription drug costs. For seniors on a fixed budget, saving hundreds of dollars on life-saving medication will have a significant impact during this tough economic time.”

Key provisions in the Affordable Care Act addressed the rising costs of prescription drugs for seniors on Medicare. The law has already helped seniors who hit the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage gap or “donut hole.” In 2010, people with Medicare who hit the donut hole received a one-time $250 rebate, totaling more than $5 million for seniors in New Mexico. In 2011, people with Medicare began receiving a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs and 7 percent coverage of generic drugs in the donut hole. Last year, more than 19,000 Medicare beneficiaries in New Mexico received $9.7 million in discounts, saving the average beneficiary $497. This year, Medicare coverage for generic drugs in the coverage gap has increased to 14 percent, already saving seniors $4 million.

The CBO’s findings, released on Tuesday, make it clear that efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act will significantly add to the deficit. While the law will save $109 billion over the next ten years, CBO also found that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the deficit by roughly $1.5 trillion in the second decade.

July 26, 2012 at 12:40 PM in Healthcare, Obama Health Care Reform, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Senior Citizens | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

NM Retiree Leader Slams Rep. Pearce & US House for Voting Against Seniors, Medicare

The following statement was issued today by Barbara Pardo, President of the New Mexico Alliance for Retired Americans, in response to the U.S. House voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act:

“Representative Steve Pearce and the U.S. House shamefully voted to take away Medicare benefits that are helping seniors here in New Mexico better afford to see a doctor and fill a prescription.

“New Mexican retirees are upset that, in voting for repeal, Rep. Pearce chose ideology and partisan politics over seniors’ basic needs. We are pleased that Reps Heinrich & Lujan stood up against the powerful special interests in support of a law that is helping workers and retirees across our state.

In our state, nearly 20,000 Medicare beneficiaries have already saved a total of $17.6 million on their prescriptions. This is what Rep. Pearce voted to take away from our seniors today. Thanks to what Pearce calls "ObamaCare", over 200,000 New Mexican seniors have received free, life-saving tests for chronic diseases. Seniors call that accountable health care and wonder what Rep. Pearce is thinking by voting so obsessively to repeal such a great deal for all New Mexicans.

“Retirees worry about their children and grandchildren, and are happy that the law allows young adults under age 26 stay on their parents’ health insurance. Seniors are glad to see working families finally protected from the greed and outrageous business practices of the insurance companies.

“This was the 33rd vote in Congress to repeal this law, a law that in the past two years has been approved by both houses of Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court. It is time to move on. Political gamesmanship will not help a single retiree, worker, or students live a better, healthier life. Rep. Pearce needs to focus on serving New Mexicans instead of his Wall Street buddies.”

July 11, 2012 at 06:05 PM in Healthcare, Obama Health Care Reform, Senior Citizens, Steve Pearce | Permalink | Comments (0)

Health Care Vote: Pearce Snubs Struggling NM families by Voting for Obamacare Repeal

The Supreme Court has ruled that Obamacare is constitutional, but today Congressman Steve Pearce refused to move on and told struggling families in New Mexico that politics trumps their health care when he voted to repeal the landmark health-reform law.

By voting for repeal, Pearce indicated he clearly agrees with allowing insurance companies deny families coverage because of preexisting conditions. His vote also means he opposes providing small businesses tax credits to buy insurance; and that he supports throwing thousands of our senior citizens back into the prescription-drug donut hole.

“It shouldn’t come as any surprise.” said Frank Cole, Communications Director for Protect Your Care New Mexico. “Representative Pearce has historically put the interests of the insurance industry above the health needs of his own constituency.”

Nearly one in four New Mexicans lives without insurance. It is estimated that hundreds die every year from health conditions which could have been prevented had those suffering had proper medical coverage. But without insurance, many avoid the doctor until it’s too late.

Steve Pearce would have you believe that the law is bad for New Mexico. But here are the facts:

  • Obamacare gives 320,000 seniors access to free preventive services under Medicare and relief to 20,000 more who fall into the donut hole.
  • 11,000 young adults are now on their parent’s plan until they’re 26.
  • It makes it illegal for providers to place lifetime limits on coverage or drop coverage due to an illness for the 900,000 New Mexicans with private insurance.
  • And it begins to provide insurance for those without it by expanding Medicaid and creating health insurance exchanges, making private insurance more affordable and easier to shop for.

That’s just a few of the benefits Pearce would like to see disappear.

July 11, 2012 at 04:01 PM in Healthcare, Obama Health Care Reform, Republican Party, Steve Pearce | Permalink | Comments (2)

Luján: House Republicans’ Partisan Agenda to Repeal Health Care Ignores Need to Create Jobs

Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District released the following statement today on House Republicans’ attempt to once again repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“It is time for House Republicans to stop wasting time on partisan efforts to repeal health insurance reform. Today’s vote – the 33rd time House Republicans have tried to repeal patient protections – will not hide the fact that they have failed to offer an agenda to create jobs for the American people.

“Instead of trying to repeal a law that protects people with pre-existing conditions, provides free preventive care to seniors, and helps small businesses provide health insurance for their workers, the House should spend time on legislation that can put people back to work.”

July 11, 2012 at 03:09 PM in Healthcare, Obama Health Care Reform, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Obamacare: Surreal in so many ways by Peter Moulson

The moment so many had been waiting for, the Supreme Court’s decision on what has become known as Obamacare started with a crash as Fox and CNN got it wrong by broadcasting that the Supremes had struck down the Individual Mandate from the ACA (Obamacare). It soon became clear that these Bastions of the Truth had got it wrong, and the Supreme Court had in fact upheld Obamacare.

As the initial shock wore off and strategy meetings were held, a group of excited, surprised, even astonished activists and politicians met for a 2:00pm press conference in front of the Federal Court building in downtown Albuquerque, almost oblivious to the near-100 degree heat.

Obamacare.06.28.2012.participants gather
“ACA supporters gather outside the Federal Courthouse.” (Photo: Peter Moulson)

Chris Cervini, director of Know Your Care New Mexico introduced Senators Dede Feldman and Jerry Ortiz y Pino, and physician Dr. Dan Derksen to the waiting TV media. The well-messaged points were that today’s ruling was an outstanding success for healthcare in our country and it is now time to pressure the Martinez administration to take advantage of the millions of dollars being made available to us to assist with Medicaid in New Mexico.

Senator Feldman called on the governor and the legislature “to stop horsing around and implement this law of the land.” Expanding Medicaid and developing a strong healthcare insurance exchange are essential she said, and then millions of dollars in Federal aid will be made available to New Mexico. “Hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans will benefit.”

Dr. Derksen highlighted the fact that in New Mexico with a population of little over 2,000,000 -- 340,000 are without health insurance.

Obamacare.dine
“This woman is Dine and with OLE New Mexico. She supports the ACA and noted that 40% of Native Americans in NM are currently uninsured.” (photo Lora Lucero)

The excitement was palpable. Yet so was the underlying confusion. What did this mean? Why did they vote this way when we were so convinced they were going to shred the Affordable Healthcare Act in its entirety? And where exactly do we go from here?

Racing out of the heat in search of shelter, a large group from the press conference landed at Marble Brewery to celebrate. Chris Cervini brought the house to order by raising his glass in a toast to Justice Roberts, “certainly for the first and last time.”

Chris Cervini.06.28.2012
“A toast to Justice Roberts!” (photo: Peter Moulson)

You can bet your boots the Republicans will continue to challenge the ACA, but right now, let’s enjoy the moment.

June 29, 2012 at 08:23 AM in Events, Guest Blogger, Healthcare, Obama Health Care Reform | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Affordable Care Act Upheld by Supreme Court

The Health care reform act was challenged clear up to the US Supreme Court and the decision was rendered today. It is satisfying to know the highest court in the land upheld the constitutionality of this important legislation. The final deciding vote was cast by Chief Judge John Roberts, appointed by Bush 43.

This will not stop the republicans at all, in fact it will embolden them. As Pearce says at the end of these statements, "The House has scheduled a vote on the full repeal of ObamaCare during the week of July 9."

What a contrast of message from the R's to the D's about good news for the people of this Country.

Let's contribute to the State races for the NM House of Representatives. You know the SusanaPac is rolling in the dough today with this news. Please start with a contribution to my race for NM House District 30. Please go to this ActBlue link here, thank you in advance.

Below are the statements from all of NM Congressional leaders:

Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s CD-3 released the following statement today on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

“For too long, families and small businesses in New Mexico have seen their health care costs skyrocket as they continue to pay more and receive less. The ranks of the uninsured grew while insurance companies continued to deny or drop coverage for those who needed it most. That is why President Obama and Democrats in Congress took action to pass health insurance reform that ends the insurance companies’ worst abuses, expands coverage, and takes steps to bring down costs for hard-working New Mexicans.

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the law is an important victory for the people of New Mexico. Young adults will be able to remain on their parents’ insurance plan, those with pre-existing conditions will be assured that they will have health insurance, and seniors will continue to pay less for prescription drugs and receive free preventive care.

“It is now abundantly clear that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and that the people of New Mexico will continue to benefit from its many important provisions.”

Congressman Martin Heinrich (CD-1) Statement On Supreme Court Decision Upholding Health Care Reform 

U.S. Senate candidate Martin Heinrich released the following statement today after the Supreme Court ruled the Affordable Care Act constitutional:

“The Supreme Court has spoken, declaring the Affordable Care Act constitutional. This decision means New Mexicans will continue to benefit from expanded access to quality, affordable health care.

“Now it’s time to move on to the major economic problems facing our country. Our focus needs to be on creating jobs and getting our economy back on track. The finger-pointing needs to end and Washington needs to get its priorities straight by cutting waste and ending the Bush tax breaks for millionaires and companies that outsource jobs, so we can focus on job creation and strengthening Social Security and Medicare."

Michelle Lujan Grisham Candidate for CD-1: Health Care Debate Must Shift to Controlling Costs

Congressional candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has spent her career as an advocate for quality health care, said the Supreme Court’s decision today is a victory for the thousands of New Mexico families that deserve access to quality, affordable health care.

“This is a victory for New Mexico families because insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to people with asthma, cancer or heart disease, or force women to pay more for health care,” Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “This is a good first step toward reforming our broken health care system.

“However, there is still work to be done. When I get to Congress I will work to require health insurance companies to put patients before profits. We must control health care costs, improve quality and train more health care workers.”

Senator Udall Statement on Supreme Court’s Health Care Ruling Following the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:

"When Congress and President Obama first took up this issue, we knew it wouldn't be easy. The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is the best possible outcome for the American people. Today, quality, affordable health care is a major step closer to becoming a reality for millions of Americans who live one accident or diagnosis away from losing everything. For these families, health care is an economic matter with the very real consequences of life, death and bankruptcy. As a nation, and across New Mexico, we cannot afford to go back to just a short time ago when insurance coverage for all was further from reach, when children with cancer could be denied coverage, and when unemployed, recent college graduates would be kicked off their parents' insurance by age 22.

"We can still improve upon the law we've put into place, but today, New Mexico has already received more than $200 million in grants and loans to establish an insurance exchange, strengthen community health centers, train new health professionals and so much more. Since passing the law, more than 26,000 young adults under 26-years-old in our state have been allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance plans. Almost 20,000 New Mexico seniors on Medicare received a rebate to help cover prescription costs when they hit the donut hole in 2010. And 285,000 New Mexicans with private health insurance no longer have to pay a deductible or copayment for preventive care like physicals, cancer screenings and vaccinations. More is yet to come.

"Today's decision marks another turning point in our country's approach to health care equality. Now’s the time to put aside partisanship and work together to make our health care policy even stronger."

Republican NMCD-2 Rep. Steve Pearce issued the following statement:

Supreme Court Decision Allows for New Obamacare Tax on New Mexico Families

“I have long believed that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2011 was an unconstitutional overreach by the President. ObamaCare is a violation of our individual rights and an expansion of federal government power our nation’s founders would have found unfathomable.

“The Supreme Court, which has the responsibility of interpreting the law, found this overreach acceptable as a tax. While I do not agree, I respect its authority to make this interpretation.

“Since day one, the Obama Administration has denied that his law was a tax on the American people. Yet, the Obama Administration will claim victory, when all this law does is assess a greater financial burden on hardworking American families and small business owners.

“ObamaCare puts government bureaucrats between patients and their doctors, hurts small businesses and creates trillions in new government spending that will add a huge new weight to our already overloaded deficit.

“We need to get back to work on repealing this ‘tax’ and reforming our healthcare system. These reforms must be focused on protecting patient access to the care they need from the doctor they choose.”

The Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the law is constitutional. The House has scheduled a vote on the full repeal of ObamaCare during the week of July 9.

June 28, 2012 at 04:17 PM in 2012 Legislature Races, Healthcare, Michelle Lujan Grisham, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Health Care Reform, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Sen. Tom Udall, Steve Pearce | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Guest Blog by Alex Cotoia: Supreme Court’s Ruling on the Constitutionality of the ACA

Alex cotoiaAlexander Cotoia is a paralegal with the firm of Holt Mynatt Martinez P.C. in Las Cruces, and a member of the Democratic Party State Central Committee.  He has authored several guest columns that have appeared on this site.

In a matter of days, the U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in on the future of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), as it issues its much anticipated decision governing the constitutionality of the law under the federal Constitution. Exhaustively discussed in legal and political circles, the ACA contains a number of controversial provisions, including the hotly contested “individual mandate” or “minimum coverage provision” that conservatives view as anathema; an impermissible encroachment on an individual’s economic liberty.

If the Court were to accept this argument and strike down the ACA or any portion of the Act as constitutionally incompatible, it would be engaging in an egregious act of judicial activism; upending the principle of congressional deference and subverting the justification for “rational basis” review, which long recognized that Congress possesses plenary, or exclusive power over the regulation of interstate commerce. As Justice Breyer noted in dissent in the landmark case of U.S. v. Lopez—the seminal case in which the Court departed from nearly a half century of settled jurisprudence—the Court’s function is to assess “not whether the regulated activity sufficiently affected interstate commerce, but, rather, whether Congress could have had a rational basis for so concluding.”

That a rational basis exists for regulating the health insurance market is beyond legitimate contention. The unique nature of American health care, coupled with the inability of an individual to opt out (even those with the strongest immune systems are likely to fall ill at least once during their lifespan) left Congress little choice but to fashion legislation that included a minimum coverage provision to curb skyrocketing health care costs, and eradicate the ‘cost-shifting’ that is largely responsible for escalating premiums. Far from being without precedent, this is exactly the kind of “broader regulatory scheme” that the Supreme Court has consistently deemed constitutionally permissible, even in cases where the regulated activity was of a “wholly intrastate [and] . . . non-economic” character. (For a more detailed discussion about Commerce Clause jurisprudence, see opinion by a federal judge upholding the constitutionality of the ACA here: http://www.hfma.org/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=24259)

I’m not saying the ACA is perfect—it isn’t. In a world in which the United States stands alone among our industrialized counterparts in providing health care as a matter of right to its citizens, the better, but far more controversial option would have been to expand Medicare and eliminate the private insurance market altogether. But this President recognizes political reality, and chose to pass legislation that dramatically expanded health care coverage to uninsured Americans; banned discrimination based on pre-existing conditions; and required insurance companies to cover a host of preventative care services without requiring a co-payment from the consumer. On balance, the ACA is a positive first-step in recognizing that access to quality, affordable health care is an integral part of American competitiveness. If Americans are to have an edge with our competitors the world over, it is imperative that we live both productive and healthy lives.

For this reason, the Court would do well to reject the frenzied contentions of the reactionary right and give new meaning to the principle of stare decisis. Allowing the ACA to stand is both legally sound and practically expedient. If conservatives truly were champions of judicial restraint, they would agree.

June 21, 2012 at 02:49 PM in Guest Blogger, Healthcare, Obama Health Care Reform | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

06/30: HEALTH CARE FORUM Understanding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

HEALTH CARE FORUM; Understanding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

WHEN: Saturday, June 30, 2-4 PM
WHERE: First Unitarian Church, 3701 Carlisle NE
Purpose: The Forum is intended to increase understanding of the Affordable Care Act. Our health care system continues to struggle! We have 50 million people without health insurance. As a nation, we pay more for our health care than other country, and have less to show for it. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act emerged as a serious attempt to respond to our challenges. Because of its complexity, most people do not fully understand it. However, it is of critical importance that we all comprehend and be able to utilize new directions.
Format: Four speakers with expertise in various areas of the new health program will summarize their areas, followed by an hour of questions. The speakers are: Dan Derksen, M.D. (Workforce Issues), Nandini Kuehn, Ph.D. (Health Economics), Derrick Nelson, M.D. (Rural Health Care), and State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino (Public/Private Interface).
Questions: will be submitted in writing, either in advance or on cards available during the Forum. References to readily available information will be provided.
Sponsorship: The Forum is sponsored by Progressive Democrats of America, Central New Mexico Chapter in collaboration with other organizations (List available at the Forum)

THE IMPORTANCE OF DISCUSSING THE PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
A health care forum will be held June 30, 2-4 PM at the First Unitarian Church on Carlisle and Commanche, focused on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act(ACA). While the Supreme Court may act before that date, it is likely that much of the Act will remain intact if not the whole. It is of great importance that we all understand the Act in as much detail as we can, for the following reasons:

1] The ACA is, at present, the law of the land
2] While maintaining the health insurance industry largely unaffected, it contains a myriad of very positive components
3] It represents a meaningful step towards universal health coverage

Some of the very positive sections of the ACA deal with:
1] Preventive practices focused on legitimate and reachable goals
2] Improving access to primary health care services, in rural and urban settings
3] Improve the ratio of primary care providers to specialists
4] Using technology to improve communication between health care resources and patients
5] Enhancement of the effort to use evidence-based medical practice and procedures
6] Channeling and conserving medical technological devices
7] Leveling the playing field in terms of coverage by health insurance companies
8] Deny exclusion of patients with pre-existent illnesses
9] And many other sections

The Forum is being sponsored by Progressive Democrats of America, Central New Mexico Chapter, as a public service.

June 20, 2012 at 03:56 PM in Events, Healthcare, Jerry Ortiz y Pino, Progressivism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pride Blog on HIV by Marshall Martinez

MarshallMarshall Martinez is a fairly frequent blogger here at DFNM, and we are grateful. Again Marshall takes his passion to writing and educating us in this Pride Blog post. Thank you Marshall!

“It’s time to come together and get to work!”

This was the rallying cry many of us active New Mexico Democrats received in our email inboxes Wednesday Morning of this past week. The primary is over and we must come together, work hard to defeat Mitt Romney, Heather Wilson and Janice Arnold-Jones etc.

At the same time, to those of us who are GLBT, The beginning of June means something else entirely! “Pride is about Unity” “Pride is about Community!” “Pride is about being comfortable, safe, expressing love, being who we truly are!” And these statements are all true. I, for one, love Pride Month!

But over the last couple of years, I have seen a darkening cloud over both of these exciting sets of events. As a lifelong active Democrat who enjoyed the coming together of the party after a primary, and as a relatively Young Gay Man who enjoyed the party and the excitement and the feeling of welcome-ness of Pride, My mind often wonders now, about something that seems to be left out of the discussions.

It is estimated that more than One Million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the United States today. Almost 35,000 new infections are diagnosed every year since 2005.

Why do I bring this up now? Why do I constantly bang this drum? Because not enough other people are!

The story may be different in other parts of the country, certainly in larger cities. But in Albuquerque, NM, we are behind the game, and we need to step it up!

The conversation about condoms and abstinence has been going on for a couple of decades in the US. And though we definitely could setup up our programs in Public Schools nationwide, it doesn’t seem to be as effective as we thought it would be in slowing the number of new infections. So what’s next?

The year is 2012. And unless the world really ends in December, (or August) we need to be rethinking our messaging and our approach to HIV Prevention. Arguments have been happening nationwide about offering a drug currently used for treatment of HIV, to people possibly exposed to HIV. The arguments have included the notion that this will allow people to be more reckless about their sexual activity, knowing there is a pill they can take. (By the Way - The same argument made about the morning-after pill, and other forms of contraception in the past) Maybe we should be talking about Risk Assessment and Harm Reduction not “prevention.” Maybe we should acknowledge that people like to have sex without condoms, and regardless of how irresponsible we may think it is as advocates, talk to them about other steps they can take to protect themselves. Maybe its time to have different conversations at PRIDE, and other venues. Let’s talk about how to discuss Viral Load, and its implications on risk; or about the use of lubricant and, other tools to help reduce risk of sex without a condom.

Maybe we should work harder to take the stigma out of the statement “I’m HIV Positive.” I have too many friends, loved ones, who do not reveal their status to potential partners, or friends and family even, because of all the baggage that goes along with that. Maybe if we started teaching gay men especially how to react with compassion rather than disgust when they hear that, then maybe we can start to open those lines of dialogue and allow people to feel more comfortable discussing the risks.

I don’t know the answers; I don’t know what direction we should take. But I know we have to come together to make a change. In this highly charged political atmosphere for Republicans and Democrats, in this time of celebration and memorials for a Queer community, we have to find a new approach to a problem that has plagued us for far too long. I propose that the first step is to put aside our ideologies about treatments, about messages, about methods, and become more willing to discuss all options. Only with the widest of approaches and most open of minds can we truly defeat HIV. Remember, as I have sad before, this is our Sons and Daughters, our Brothers and Sisters we are talking about. Don’t they deserve some new energy and effort on their behalf? Yes, yes they do.

June 12, 2012 at 11:02 AM in AIDS/HIV, GLBT Rights, Guest Blogger, Healthcare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Common Cause New Mexico Releases Research -- Role of Campaign Contributions in NM Health Policy

On May 7th,  Common Cause New Mexico (CCNM) released their latest report, Connecting the Dots – The Role of Campaign Contributions in New Mexico Health Policy, focusing on campaign contributions and how legislators vote when receiving donations from industries affected by their voting. Between 2000 and 2010, various healthcare industries contributed a combined total of $4,863,088 to candidates running for political office in New Mexico. Furthermore, contributions from these industries have increased substantially over time, from $268,096 in 2000 to $1.3 million in 2010.

Focusing on six pieces of health-related legislation between 2007 and 2010, our findings suggest that money does play an influential role in the voting behavior of New Mexico legislators. In almost all instances, decision-makers who receive larger amounts of money from the healthcare, tobacco, business, eating and drinking establishments, gambling and lodging, and pharmacies are more likely to vote in a manner that is favorable to that industry.

New Mexicans want to be assured that our legislators are voting for the public good, not to pacify or cater to industry in New Mexico,” says CCNM’s Executive Director Viki Harrison. She continues by saying that “public confidence in the legislative process is critical if we are to trust our legislators and have confidence in the legislative process.”

In nearly each case, decision makers who receive larger amounts of money from the healthcare, tobacco, and liquor industries are more likely to vote in a manner that is more favorable to that industry. However, we want to clarify that the correlations found here between campaign contributions and voting behavior do not imply that legislators are trading votes for campaign donations. Identifying individual motivations for voting one way or another, or to vote at all for that matter, are impossible to determine at any level of certainty. That said, the correlation between contributions and voting behavior alone can erode trust in government and interest in politics among the population. If the public believes that powerful interest groups can use their financial resources to steer policy in the direction of their interests, this is not good for the status of democratic governance in our state

May 12, 2012 at 03:38 PM in Candidates & Races, Citizens United, Corporatism, Ethics & Campaign Reform, Healthcare | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Health Care Director Brings History of Scandal and Corporate-Run Regulation (ALEC) to NM

From ProgressNow New Mexico.

Governor Susana Martinez's appointee to lead the design of New Mexico's Health Insurance Exchange has a long and sordid history with ALEC, scandals involving the improper use of taxpayer resources and suspect businesses dealings using non-profit foundations for big personal gains.

Michael Leavitt is a former Bush administration EPA Administrator and HHS Secretary.  ProgressNow NM has discovered that during his tenure in those positions, and in his private life throughout and since, Leavitt has drawn criticism for his close associations with corporations he was charged with regulating, using government emergency aircraft as a private jet service and "suspect" behavior to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars through a non-profit and into his private bank accounts.

Among the items reported by ProgressNow NM (view the full report and citations online):

  • As EPA Administrator, Leavitt was a featured speaker at a 2004 ALEC event sponsored, in part, by ExxonMobil and other entities he was charged with regulating.  ALEC is the shadowy corporate-backed bill factory now under IRS scrutiny and investigation in several states for allowing corporations to write legislation and regulations about their own industries and feeding it to legislators to pass, avoiding anti-lobbying laws in the process.
  • As HHS secretary, Leavitt used a CDC emergency response aircraft as his personal charter jet on more than 90 trips - forcing the CDC to find other transportation in at least two actual emergencies
  • Congress proposed a law to stop Leavitt and others from funneling more than $500,000 in corporate and non-profit money through a non-profit scholarship foundation, then receiving all of that money back while placing those students in housing owned by Leavitt.

In 2014, small businesses and the uninsured (mostly young, old and poor) will be required to obtain health insurance and most will do so through the state-run insurance exchange.  The exchange is supposed to connect uninsured with insurers providing affordable insurance plans.  New Mexico has an estimated 430,000 uninsured residents, the second-highest in the nation.

Martinez is responsible for setting up that exchange, and she has delegated that task to Leavitt, along with a $1 million payment.  

"As a regulator, he was closer to those he regulated than those he was charged to protect.  As a health secretary he saw no problem with utilizing government emergency health response resources as his own private charter jet company and in private life he funneled hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in charitable money through a non-profit foundation and into his personal bank accounts," says ProgressNow NM's Executive Director Pat Davis.

"Insurance companies Leavitt will negotiate with are surely happy with this appointment, but New Mexico's uninsured and small businesses who are already pinching pennies are right to wonder about a man whose experience shows such disregard for individuals and taxpayers."

May 11, 2012 at 09:40 AM in Corporatism, Healthcare, ProgressNow New Mexico, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

House Republicans Once Again Cut the Budget on the Backs of Middle-Class Families

Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District voted today against a measure aimed at implementing House Republicans’ budget plan that calls for deep cuts to vital services for middle-class families while protecting defense spending and tax breaks for the richest Americans. The budget reconciliation bill cuts $310 billion over 10 years from non-defense spending in areas such as health care, food and nutrition assistance, and vital safety net programs for seniors, women, and children.

“Instead of offering a balanced plan to reduce our nation’s deficit, House Republicans once again make hard-working New Mexicans pay the price,” Congressman Luján said. “In order to restore the American Dream and rebuild the middle class, we need a balanced approach that invests in our future by supporting innovation, strengthening education, and rebuilding infrastructure. Now is the time to invest in our national labs and develop new groundbreaking technologies that could change the way we generate energy, keep our airports safer, and make our hospitals healthier. In times like these, millionaires should be giving to charity, not getting it through more tax breaks.”

The House Republicans’ reconciliation bill replaces automatic defense spending cuts that they agreed to last year with cuts that will result in:

  • Nearly 300,000 children losing free or reduce-priced school meals, on top of cuts to food aid at home for 22 million children;
  • 1.7 million seniors losing “Meals on Wheels” and other home-based services; and
  • 326,000 women not getting breast cancer screenings and 284,000 not getting cervical cancer screenings.

May 10, 2012 at 05:27 PM in Children and Families, Healthcare, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Republican Party | Permalink | Comments (0)