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There's fresh hope for N.M. health care

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By Hal Rhodes

Freshman Texas senator, Republican Ted Cruz, wasted a lot of the U.S. Senate’s time last week on a phony filibuster lambasting “Obamacare.”
Meanwhile, New Mexicans, along with most other Americans, are now able to shop for health insurance with much greater information about the costs of premiums and the range of coverage available to them than ever before.
Today, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act kicked in whereby health insurance exchanges in every state make it easier for people to obtain what ACA’s title promises, affordable health insurance.
Granted, critics of “Obamacare,” as the ACA has come to be known, have so thoroughly confused the issue that many among us range between horrified and mystified when the subject comes up.
But like it or not, with the advent of these state-based health insurance exchanges, a big step has been taken toward something akin to comprehensive and comprehensible health care coverage in New Mexico and elsewhere in the country.
Forget all the balderdash with which we have been bombarded, health insurance exchanges are simply markets to which individuals and families seeking insurance can go to compare the coverage options available to them through the various private insurers and to weigh the relative costs the various options carry.
Not only do they simplify the process of shopping for health insurance, they make it easier to compare costs, side-by-side, of one policy versus the others; and to find a policy that best fits a person’s needs and pocketbook.
They also encourage insurance providers, aka insurance companies, to be more competitive and cost conscious in the policies they offer.
Under the Affordable Care Act, all of the states were encouraged to institute their own health insurances exchanges, with the proviso that if they failed to do so the federal government would do it for them.
And in at least 36 states, that is exactly what happened when their governors and/or Legislatures—many controlled by Republicans who oppose “Obamacare” — failed or refused to institute exchanges: Washington had to do the job for them.
New Mexico, on the other hand, is one of 14 states to have organized its own exchange, and credit is due to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez for taking the initiative on this effort and, simultaneously, bucking the GOP’s nigh irrational opposition to all things “Obamacare.”
Mind you now, Martinez is on record as opposing “Obamacare.” But, as the governor subsequently noted, The Affordable Care Act “is the law of the land.” Congress passed it. The President signed it. And the United States Supreme Court upheld it.
It’s a refreshing contrast to the belligerence of Republican governors in states adjacent to New Mexico where Arizona’s Jan Brewer, Texas’ Rick Perry and Oklahoma’s Mary Fallin defaulted on their obligation and, thereby, left the federal government with greater influence in creating their insurances exchanges. Sometimes, doing the right thing is simply the right thing to do.
If only House Republicans on Capitol Hill could come to that realization, perhaps we would be spared phony filibusters in the Senate over “defunding Obamacare,” with a freshman senator from Texas reading Dr. Seuss for want of anything more relevant to say.
Indeed, if the example set by Gov. Martinez in creating New Mexico’s own insurance exchange were emulated by her fellow Republicans in Washington, the scandal of holding the Affordable Care Act hostage to government shutdowns might cease to be the order of the day.
Which would leave the rest of us free to get on with our lives and, who knows, find affordable health care policies suited to our needs.