Bingaman: Numbers Show New Mexico Needs Health Insurance Reform

New Mexico – U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman today said New Mexico's 24.7 percent uninsured rate - the second highest in the country - once again underscores how important it was to pass a health insurance reform law. Last year, New Mexico's uninsured rate was 23.7 percent - the third highest in the country.

Under the new law, by 2014 all states will be required to set up a marketplace where uninsured residents and businesses can purchase insurance plans and determine whether they qualify for tax credits to afford the coverage. The marketplace will be required to offer core benefits and specific levels of coverage - even for those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Also in 2014, the state will begin receiving billions of dollars to expand Medicaid, covering more New Mexicans who currently do not qualify for the program but who still do not have a high enough income to afford insurance coverage.

"New Mexico stands to gain more from this law than almost any other state - primarily because our uninsured rate is so high," Bingaman said. "We've had chronically high uninsured rates for years, and because of the law Congress passed last year we are finally going to be able to tackle that intractable problem."

Bingaman pointed out that while some of the most important aspects of the law don't kick in until 2014 a few provisions are already helping cover some New Mexicans. For example, last year the law began to require insurance companies to offer health care coverage to children with pre-existing conditions and to cover young Americans up to age 26.

"When uninsured Americans need medical attention, they usually end up in emergency rooms. Those of us fortunate enough to have insurance end up covering those costs, which is one main reason our health care costs have been rising so dramatically," Bingaman said. "This health reform law is the most important step we've taken to reduce our uninsured rates and to finally get a handle on our nation's health care costs."

The uninsurance rates were released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The data includes individuals under 65 years of age and were reported for 2010.