On the eve of the election, the University of New Mexico awarded Gov. Susana Martinez a distinction that puts her in the same category as a neurosurgeon.
UNM President Robert Frank announced Tuesday that Gov. Martinez and Dr. Howard Yonas, Chair of UNM’s neurosurgery department, are recipients of the school’s Presidential Awards of Distinction for making “critical contributions to the health and well-being of New Mexicans.”
Frank says in his statement that Martinez won the award for bucking Republican Party convention in her decision to expand Medicaid during the implementation of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Instead of letting the federal government implement New Mexico’s health care exchange—a marketplace for health-care plans—Martinez directed her administration to create its own exchange. At the time, several Republican governors had been rejecting the creation of the exchanges, allowing the federal government to create one for them. Some Republican governors had also been declining to expand Medicaid in their state through Obama’s Affordable Care Act. A new data set published by the New York Times shows New Mexico to be one of the largest beneficiaries of the federal law, with the rate of those with health insurance coverage increasing by as much as 20 percent in some areas over the last year. In Santa Fe County, the rate of uninsured dropped to 10 percent over the year, from 19 percent in 2013, according to the data.Martinez' record on expanding access to health coverage is taking a hit with her administration's shakeup of the state's behavioral health system. New Mexico In Depth has the latest on the health audit.“She also reformed and expanded Medicaid, providing basic health care and preventive services to up to 205,000 more low-income New Mexicans,” says UNM’s release, noting she was the second Republican governor to make that decision, “a move that bucked the conventional thinking of many in her own political party.”