July 02, 2018

Op-Ed: Health care a right, not a privilege

Santa Fe New Mexican: June 30, 2018

New Mexico has suffered tremendously from the opioid epidemic.

This is not a new problem. Earlier this year, the New York Times wrote about how one of the most distressing truths of America’s opioid epidemic is that it has already lasted for 150 years. For more than a century, this crisis has been breaking communities.

This certainly isn’t a new problem in New Mexico. Five-hundred-and-one New Mexicans died of drug overdoses in 2015.

There were 52,404 deaths across the country the same year, and more than 560,000 deaths in the U.S. between 1999 and 2015. That’s a half-million people who missed Thanksgiving dinner or their son’s Little League game, who weren’t able to help their daughter with her math homework or kiss their spouse goodnight. That’s brothers, sisters, parents, friends and children whom we lost too soon because, in part, Congress has not responded forcefully enough to address this crisis.

We must break this cycle because, if we don’t act, we will be doomed to see these tragedies repeat for another 150 years.

Recently, Congress passed a package of bipartisan bills to address this crisis. That’s good news. I authored several of these bills, and I believe they will help address many of the challenges we face in New Mexico — namely, our shortage of health care providers and treatment facilities, and the lack of nonaddictive pain medication options for people suffering from pain.

However, if you listen to congressional Republicans, you might get the impression that this problem has been solved. This problem has not been solved.

First, this package fails to provide the necessary investments to combat this epidemic. Republicans are insisting this is enough — Democrats want to invest billions more. Second, for 18 months, congressional Republicans and the Trump administration have deliberately sabotaged Americans’ access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage.

Most recently, the administration asked a federal court to once again allow insurance companies to discriminate against Americans with pre-existing conditions. This latest assault on the Affordable Care Act could leave millions of Americans without access to treatment, including those suffering from opioid-use disorder or other substance-use disorders.

This is wrong. By repeatedly attempting to undermine the ACA, Republicans are endangering our efforts to address the opioid crisis.

Since his first day in office, President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress have relentlessly attacked Americans’ access to quality, affordable health care. I will not stop fighting for the principle that health care is a right, not a privilege.

To read this article on the Santa Fe New Mexican website, click here.