It takes a lot to get people outside on a cold, rainy day in New Mexico; we tend to prefer sunshine and a nice summer breeze. But on one of the coldest days of the year, Health Action New Mexico sent out an alert: “Rain or shine, we’re hitting the streets. Are you still in?” Our staff waited anxiously at sites across the state, hoping people would turn out to defend health care in the first major public demonstrations opposing efforts to curtail healthcare policy in Washington, D.C.
Thirty minutes before the rally, people started to trickle in. They came with homemade signs: “Keep NM Covered,” “Protect Our Care,” “Keep Your Hands Off My Health Care.” Enthusiasm began to build as strangers started to share stories. “My sister wouldn’t be alive without Medicaid.” “Obamacare saved our son.” “I’m here because I care about my patients.” And when the moment arrived, hundreds of people gathered around a small speaker chanting, “Health care is a human right!”
Activists in Santa Fe protested on National Day of Action on Health Care
That was one of the first showings of the Resistance, a sign of what was to come. The fight to save health care coverage for millions of people in the United States continues, and it is being waged at every level.
Congress continues to try to rip away health care from millions and dismantle Medicaid as we know it. President Trump has signed a tax bill that will cause 13 million people to become uninsured, Sen. Lindsey Graham is signaling that Congress will again take up the disastrous Graham-Cassidy proposal in 2018, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) hangs in the federal budget balance, and Republican leadership has begun to discuss cutting Medicare and Medicaid to offset the $1.5 trillion deficit caused by the new tax bill.
In Albuquerque, over 300 people gathered outside of UNM Hospital on National Day of Action on Health Care.
In New Mexico, the governor is attempting to shift costs to low-income families by adding premiums and deductibles to Medicaid, ending retroactive coverage that protects low-income families from catastrophic costs, and reducing essential benefits.
Despite historic efforts to roll back progress on health care, the opposition has been incredibly effective. With rallies, town halls, phone banks, sharing stories, citizen research and activism, and social media advocacy—our communities have used every tool available to make their voices heard. There’s no way to deny the enormous role the Resistance has played in averting disaster to the health care system. The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land; Medicare and Medicaid have more public support than ever before, and the Martínez administration scaled back its Medicaid overhaul considerably after facing a public backlash.
Signs used on National Day of Action on Health Care in 2017
We encourage all people in New Mexico to submit comments once the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) begin their public comment period (likely in early January). We need to continue to defend the health care that New Mexico’s families need to stay healthy. But we should also start thinking about what we can get done at the state level during the next few years as new opportunities present themselves. Health Action New Mexico and our partners have begun exploring options to allow all New Mexicans to buy into the Medicaid program, which offers better benefits at a lower cost. Health Security for New Mexicans has built even more support for a state-based universal coverage system. State legislators have begun to set their sights on prescription drug pricing reforms. The energy of the Resistance can make these ideas become a reality, improving people’s lives all across the state.
We need to stay focused, keep our chins up and fight for our values to make sure that everyone in the Land of Enchantment receives the care they deserve to facilitate a high quality of life.
Colin Baillio is the director of policy and communications at Health Action New Mexico. 505.322.2152, www.healthactionnm.org