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Morning Word: Health Care Battle

June 23, 2017, 7:30 am

NM Senators: GOP health plan 'devastating'
US Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich say the Republican replacement for Obamacare would slowly quash gains made to the state's number of insured people and, according to Udall, could even lead to the closure of some rural medical facilities that depend on serving the Medicaid and Medicare population. Medicaid funding would be capped at a per-person level and increases in funding would likely come at a rate that is slower than the rise in health care costs. New Mexico's expansion of Medicaid, approved by Gov. Susana Martinez, would be unfunded in a few years. Addiction treatment providers in New Mexico worry the bill would gut their funding

Monumental shift?
Probably not. But US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has provided a nice lesson about how much to read into a phrase. Yesterday, the Word told you about what supporters of the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monuments deemed to be good news: Zinke said he saw no reason to shrink the size of new national monuments that had settled, uncontroversial boundaries. Speaking at a subcommittee hearing yesterday, Rep. Steve Pearce told Zinke that the new monument in his district, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, is too big and definitely controversial. Zinke plans a visit to New Mexico in the coming weeks. 

Spaceport cash grab
The New Mexico Finance Authority has given Spaceport America a year's worth of sales tax from Doña Ana and Sierra counties to use in its operating budget. The money is supposed to be earmarked to pay off debt from building the place, but the spaceport's new CEO says there's a critical need to attract new business to the spaceport as it potentially moves away from being a launching pad to shoot uber-rich people into space (just short of orbit) and toward a hub for more industrial space traffic.

New schools head pointed in same direction as Skandera
Christopher Ruszkowski doesn't plan any major deviations from the course charted for New Mexico public schools by Gov. Susana Martinez and former secretary Hanna Skandera. Ruszkowski, who's been with the department since last year, says he'll tweak a survey used in the school grading system and plans to visit high-performing schools this fall to hunt for innovations that are repeatable across the state. The acting public education chief has something former secretary Skandera does not: He taught in a classroom for three years.

Fixin' for a fix
The state recently dug in on a $58 million upgrade to a dangerous stretch of highway in the oil patch. The project, which inculdes $20 million in state funds, will add shoulders and lanes to Highway 82 between Artesia and Lovington. When the Permian Basin last boomed, the highway teemed with heavy truck traffic. It offered little room for error on the part of drivers. Lanes will also be added in what the state says are key spots along the 32-mile stretch.

Stay here! No, go!
A proposed four-story Holiday Inn Express in Taos is proving controversial, as you might expect. The 85-room project recently got the nod from the town's planning commission and is set for a council vote soon. But petitions have been gathered and, according to one planning commissioner, tires slashed as those opposed to the development make themselves known. The hotel would be Taos' first four-story structure. Taos has a track record of beating back development; years ago it scuttled a planned Walmart super store.

EPA: Spring cleaning for Gold King spill
Government scientists say heavy metals that polluted the water in the Animas and San Juan Rivers after the Gold King mine spill have nearly vanished. Heavy spring runoff helped wash away what remained of sediment from the August 2015 spill. Big rain events can still spike lead levels, but scientists say the water is safe for agriculture and livestock. An estimated 540 tons of heavy metals have washed into Lake Powell from the 3 million gallons that spilled out of the mine.

Deer me
Someone at State Farm, probably in the marketing department, has found a way to crunch the numbers to determine that your chances of smacking into a deer just doubled. Apparently, June is the month that New Mexico drivers are most likely to have a run-in with the spry ungulates who enjoy roadside food as much as the rest of us. Consider yourselves warned.

Thanks for reading! The Word's kid sister got hit by a deer once. The poor thing just leaped from the side of the road into the side of her car. Talk about twitchy ...

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