GOP gov­er­nor un­aware of praise of Oba­macare

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY MOR­GAN LEE

SANTA FE, N.M. | A widely re­ported let­ter prais­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s health care law was pur­ported to have been sent by New Mex­ico Gov. Su­sana Martinez. But the Repub­li­can gov­er­nor, a long­time Oba­macare critic, did not write the let­ter or know about it.

The head of New Mex­ico’s health care ex­change of­fice said Thurs­day that her of­fice wrote the let­ter with­out Mrs. Martinez’s knowl­edge or ap­proval.

BeWellnm in­terim CEO Linda Wedeen de­scribed the let­ter as a rough draft that never was re­viewed by the gov­er­nor be­fore it in­ad­ver­tently got out and was ob­tained by me­dia out­lets, which promptly re­ported a Repub­li­can’s praise for Oba­macare as fact.

A spokesman for Mrs. Martinez said she never would have signed the doc­u­ment be­cause she wants the law over­turned.

The unau­tho­rized let­ter was ad­dressed to House Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, and copied to a list of con­gres­sional lead­ers, but was never sent to them.

In early De­cem­ber, Mr. McCarthy asked state gov­er­nors and in­sur­ance com­mis­sion­ers for com­ments on the fu­ture of fed­eral health care pol­icy. Ms. Wedeen said that was when New Mex­ico in­de­pen­dent health care ex­change be­gan proac­tively draft­ing a let­ter out­lin­ing the health and eco­nomic ben­e­fits of the Af­ford­able Care Act for New Mex­ico and the per­ils of re­peal­ing it.

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump and Repub­li­cans con­trol­ling Congress are vow­ing to re­peal and re­place Mr. Obama’s Af­ford­able Care Act, which has re­lied on man­dated pur­chases of health in­sur­ance, along with fed­eral sub­si­dies and reg­u­la­tions.

“A re­peal of the Af­ford­able Care Act, even if de­layed, would con­sid­er­ably un­der­mine the avail­abil­ity of af­ford­able op­tions for health care cov­er­age,” said the unau­tho­rized let­ter, not­ing that the por­tion of unin­sured res­i­dents in New Mex­ico has dropped from 22 per­cent to 10 per­cent over the past three years.

Ms. Wedeen in­sisted the let­ter “wasn’t an opin­ion, it was a state­ment of how many peo­ple would be im­pacted” — and that she still does not know how it was re­leased.

“Our con­cern is that we make a cor­rec­tion on what is out there,” she said.

In a state­ment, Martinez spokesman Chris Sanchez said the health care ex­change had no right to com­mu­ni­cate the gov­er­nor’s views and crit­i­cized an uniden­ti­fied re­porter for not vet­ting “what is very clearly a phony let­ter.”

The on­line news out­let Politico first re­ported on the unau­tho­rized let­ter Wed­nes­day.

Politico ran an up­date with Mrs. Martinez’s dis­avowal on Thurs­day, but by then por­tions of the let­ter had been reprinted as fact by New Mex­ico-based me­dia out­lets.

“She never saw the let­ter, doesn’t agree with it, and never would have signed it,” Mr. Sanchez wrote. “Gov­er­nor Martinez has made it crystal clear that she op­poses Oba­macare be­cause it hurts small busi­nesses and raises pre­mi­ums on our fam­i­lies.”

While crit­i­cal of Oba­macare, Mrs. Martinez signed New Mex­ico on to a ma­jor pil­lar of the act that ex­panded low- or no-cost Med­i­caid in­sur­ance to more adults. In a state of 2.1 mil­lion res­i­dents, more than 270,000 New Mex­ico res­i­dents have signed up for Med­i­caid since the state’s ex­pan­sion be­gan in Jan­uary 2014.

New Mex­ico In­sur­ance Su­per­in­ten­dent John Fra­chini said the release of the let­ter by the health care ex­change was likely a “naive mis­take.” His agency is work­ing on an anal­y­sis of health in­sur­ance op­tions to share with the gov­er­nor be­fore send­ing it to Congress ahead of a mid-Jan­uary dead­line.


New Mex­ico Gov. Su­sana Martinez never would have signed a let­ter prais­ing Oba­macare be­cause she wants the law over­turned, a spokesman said.

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