Many Will Remain Uninsured: “I’m coming down with something,” a stuffy Mark Nicastre, spokesman for US Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, tells SFR the day after the House of Representatives passed a long-awaited health care reform bill. (The irony!)
Nicastre sent Luján’s obligatory victory statement to reporters on the evening of March 21: “While this legislation does not solve every problem facing our health insurance system, it does make important steps toward reforming our broken health insurance system.”
Among those “important steps” is the bill’s promised extension of coverage “to 115,500 uninsured residents” in Luján’s 3rd Congressional District. Nicastre says the unusually specific figure comes from the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s estimates based on US Census figures.
Also using recent Census data, the Chicago-based Physicians for a National Health Program counts 153,800 people without health insurance in New Mexico’s 3rd District. That means reform will leave approximately 38,300 people uninsured in Luján’s district—or about 7 percent of the population, versus 27 percent uninsured today.
How can anyone remain uncovered, since the bill makes insurance mandatory? According to Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, the remaining uninsured are a group “primarily composed of illegal immigrants, the few people who can’t afford their insurance and aren’t getting subsidies to help them purchase it, and people who have decided to pay the [$750] penalty rather than purchase insurance.”
ICE Investigates Buckman Laborer: On March 18, Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputies arrested 37-year-old Alejandro Romero-Hernandez for allegedly stabbing another man with a screwdriver. According to the report, Romero-Hernandez and his victim worked for Western Summit Constructors at the Buckman Direct Diversion Project site at Caja del Rio Road. Following his arrest, county jail records show, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed an “immigration detainer” on Romero-Hernandez. This doesn’t necessarily mean Romero-Hernandez is an undocumented immigrant, but such detainers are often a first step toward deportation.
An ICE spokeswoman told SFR she would look into Romero-Hernandez’ detainer, but did not respond by press time. The City of Santa Fe’s Buckman project manager, Rick Carpenter, did not return SFR’s message asking about the possibility that undocumented immigrants landed jobs on the massive public works project. In 2008, the Buckman Direct Diversion Board selected Western Summit and CH2M Hill for a $181 million design-build contract on a project that was supposed to create “more than 500 jobs per year” with an estimated $93 million in new “labor income.” SFR first reported parts of this story online last week.