By Christopher Ortiz, Managing Editor, Albuquerque Business First
November 10, 8:02 a.m.
One of the consistent themes during Donald Trump's presidential campaign was his promise to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
With Tuesday's win, what does a Trump presidency mean for New Mexico and its health care marketplace and stakeholders? The question has a big impact on businesses, since employee health care is one of the biggest costs most employers face.
Dr. Martin Hickey, CEO of New Mexico Health Connections, and Linda Wedeen, interim CEO of the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange, both said they're proceeding with business as usual.
Hickey said the health insurer doesn't have any contingency plans because it doesn't need them.
While Health Connections was started with a loan from the government, Hickey said it's an independent nonprofit.
"All the money we were supposed to get we got," he said. "There's nothing a Trump administration could do to us."
He said Health Connections is paying back its loan on a timely basis. The amount of the loan was $77 million.
"They really have no leverage over us," he said.
What Trump could do is cut ACA funding, and that, Hickey said, would be terrible for New Mexico.
"All New Mexicans should be aware that there is a possibility that they could mess with the funding for the subsidies," Hickey said.
Health Connections has about 45,000 policyholders. The health exchange, aka beWellnm, just started its open enrollment season.
"We don't know what he's going to do," Wedeen said of Trump. "We don't know what new legislation Congress will pass. We can't make predictions at this point. Our focus is moving forward. What people talk about in campaigns [doesn't] always come to fruition."
What hasn't changed are the tax penalties people will incur if they don't have health insurance.
"What is important, no matter what happens, is [people] have insurance," she said.
While Trump could cut off ACA funding, Congress would need to vote to overturn the health insurance law.
Wedeen said it would be harder to overturn sections of ACA such as the pre-existing conditions clause.
"Those are things that Congress likes," she said. "There might be changes. They might try to make changes to the act, as oppose to getting rid of the whole thing. 12 million have insurance that didn't have it before. That doesn't get torn very easily. There are people in Congress that wouldn't like to see that happen."
While Wedeen hinted that Democrats in Congress might filibuster efforts to overturn ACA, Hickey outright suggested it.
"Democrats can do everything in the Senate that Mitch McConnell did," he said of the U.S. Senate majority leader.