Wilson Highlights Challenge of the Uninsured at House Hearing
Speaking today in a hearing of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Congresswoman Heather Wilson said New Mexico's greatest health care challenge is the uninsured.
In New Mexico, one in five people are uninsured. Lack of health insurance affects 402,000 New Mexicans, including 18 percent of New Mexico children - about 94,000.
"Children's health care is a priority for all of us. We should start with the kids," Wilson said. "The uninsured are our greatest health care challenge in New Mexico."
Wilson has supported tax credits for the uninsured, Association Health Plans and Health Savings Accounts. More than 25 percent of the nation's 4.5 million people with Health Savings Accounts were previously among the uninsured.
Today's hearing - "Living Without Health Insurance: Why Every American Needs Coverage" - was held in conjunction with Cover the Uninsured Week, a national effort by business, labor and other organizations to highlight the issues of the uninsured.
A House leader on the issue, Wilson and Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR) spearheaded a bipartisan effort in February by 76 centrists to protect children's health (SCHIP) funding.
Also in February, Wilson introduced a House to protect millions in SCHIP funding for New Mexico. The bill is a companion to Senate legislation by Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici, and would prevent the state of New Mexico from being penalized for increasing coverage for children before the enactment of the federal program.
In New Mexico, the State Children's Health Insurance Program has allowed about 20,000 kids each year to have health coverage.
"This is an important program that keeps kids healthy, and I support it," Wilson said. "While we're reauthorizing it, I'll also work to improve it so the program is more flexible for states like New Mexico."
SCHIP is a federally funded health care initiative providing coverage for millions of American children. The program covers those children whose families, although they do not qualify for Medicaid, would not be able to afford health insurance. SCHIP was created in 1997 to fill that gap. It is up for reauthorization this year. New Mexico and several other states must have additional authority to use SCHIP funding for certain other low-income children in Medicaid because the state had already expanded coverage to more children prior to the enactment of SCHIP.