Human Right to Health Care Bill Scheduled for Vote in New Mexico Senate After Passing Two Committees
UPDATE (March 19, 2011): The Senate concluded its 2011 session without managing to schedule a vote on the amendment. The First Session of the 50th Legislature is now adjourned. HealthRightNM explains: "The amendment, SJR5 never received a vote on the Floor of the Senate. Senate Joint Resolution 5 is dead, but Sen. Ortiz y Pino has already indicated he will reintroduce in the next session. We should all celebrate that our simple, yet profound statement of solidarity gained wide recognition and opened a new dialogue on health care reform."
March 8, 2011. This week the New Mexico State Senate is expected to vote on a constitutional amendment for the right to health care. The bill passed two Senate Committees, following campaign actions and a rally of human right to health care campaigners at Santa Fe's Roundhouse on Friday, February 25, 2011.
Senate Joint Resolution 5 proposes to amend Article 2 of the constitution of New Mexico by adding a new section to read:
"Health care is a fundamental right that is an essential safeguard of human life and dignity, and the state shall ensure that every resident is able to realize this right by establishing a comprehensive system of quality health care that is accessible to each resident on an equitable basis regardless of ability to pay."
The Fiscal Impact Report issued by the Legislative Finance Committee included the following considerations:
[...] The fiscal impact of making health care a fundamental right is likely to be large, with both significant costs and benefits to society as a whole.
[...] New Mexico has one of the highest percentages of population without health insurance. [...] As indicated in the National Healthcare Disparities Report (AHRQ) the lack of health insurance constitutes a major barrier to accessing health care.
As part of this report, the Attorney General's Office stated the following:
Many of the fundamental constitutional 'rights' we have are actually cast as prohibitions on government power. The United States Bill of Rights uses language such as; "congress shall pass no law", "shall not be infringed", "but in a manner to be prescribed by law" and "shall not be violated.” The proposed language amending the state constitution is cast as an affirmative. The state 'shall ensure'. This is similar to the New Mexico constitutional right to public education, in Art. XII, Sec. 1, which provides that, “A uniform system of free public schools sufficient for the education of, and open to, all the children of school age in the state shall be established and maintained.” Both the right to a free public education, and the proposed constitutional right to quality health care, may be considered fundamental legal rights that impose large fiscal obligations on the state, which could be described as ‘unfunded mandates'."
The constitutional amendment was introduced by Senator Ortiz Y Pino. Watch his brief explanation of the bill here.
For more information on the campaign for recognizing the human right to health care in New Mexico, visit www.HealthRightNM.org, where you can also sign a letter in support of the amendment, or join them on Facebook.
The campaign has issued an action alert for today, asking supporters to call their Senators.