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NM Lawmakers Come Home to Independence Day Earful on Health Care

July 3, 2009

Santa Fe - New Mexico's federal lawmakers are home for the Fourth-of-July holiday, but already are hearing plenty of opinions from New Mexicans about what should be included in a major healthcare reform package.

Sharon Kayne, communications director for New Mexico Voices for Children, says they've been tracking recent polls on what people in the state and nationwide would like to see in the healthcare plan being debated in Washington - and one issue arises every time.

"Overwhelmingly, people want a public health insurance option for those who can't otherwise get insurance; also as a safety net for those people who have it now, but fear that they might lose it."

Wal-Mart grabbed national attention this week with the announcement the company would support mandated employer health coverage, but Kayne says in a state like New Mexico, with so many small businesses, that still leaves a gap in the system.

"Economically, it would be a huge boon to New Mexico and to the country to have an affordable plan small business people and self-employed folks could buy into."

New Mexico Voices for Children is supporting the public plan option because New Mexico has the second-highest rate in the country of uninsured children, and the group believes one way to combat that is by finding ways to cover more adults.

Opponents of the public plan option cite the cost and concerns it could drive private insurers out of business by creating a government-subsidized system. Still, many members of the public voiced support for such an option at a public town hall held this week in Santa Fe. Organizers say they'll forward public comments from the meeting to lawmakers this weekend.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM