Some residents unsure of health legislation

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Healthcare legislation signed into law Tuesday by President Barack Obama was no doubt historic.

But some Clovis residents feel it’s more about Democrats and Republicans than the year-long process was about Americans.

“I think they’re playing politics,” said Jimmy Dimas, a retired school employee who moved to Clovis five years ago. “I don’t think they’re worried about the American people.”

The bill passed both houses without a single Republican vote.

A reconciliation bill to make budgetary fixes passed the House and awaits a vote in the Senate, where it will need 51 votes to pass. In case of a tie, Vice President Joe Biden is the tie-breaking vote.

“I think it’s a great step forward for America,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.. “I represent New Mexico. We have the highest level of uninsured of any state with the exception of Texas. We have the highest number of uninsured workers of any state in the union.”

The bill includes mandates for 32 million uninsured Americans to purchase insurance, small business tax credits to cover health care premiums, allowances for children to stay on a parent’s policy until their 27th birthday and closures in the Medicare prescription drug coverage “donut hole.”

“While this legislation does not solve every problem facing our health insurance system, it does make important steps toward reforming our broken health insurance system, and I’m proud that we were able to pass legislation that will put the people of New Mexico ahead of health insurance companies,” U.S. Rep. Ben Lujan, D-N.M., wrote on his blog.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, called the legislation a “new day for health care.”

“No longer will 32 million Americans worry every day about what would happen to their families if they get sick or are in an accident,” Udall said. “I am proud to have fought for – and voted in favor of – this historic legislation.”

Citizens will be required to buy insurance, or face a tax penalty. Effective in 2014, the IRS will fine a person without insurance $95. The fine escalates to as much as $695 in 2016 for individuals. Families can be penalized up to $2,250.

Of New Mexico’s five delegates, all Democrats, Rep. Harry Teague was the only no vote.

“This bill mandates that every individual buy health insurance, but it does little to address the cost of health care, which is why many New Mexicans are uninsured in the first place,” Teague said in a statement. “It tells businesses to do the right thing and provide insurance for employees, but doesn’t guarantee or require affordable options.”

Marvin Watson, a Clovis farmer, said he’s concerned about affordability with more government involvement.

“I think when the government gets a hold of it,” Watson said, “and starts handling it, we’re going to be paying more taxes someplace to make it affordable.”

He would have preferred savings be found in hospital or doctor’s visit costs.