Medicaid could expand to everyone if legislation passes | KOB 4
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Medicaid could expand to everyone if legislation passes

Joy Wang
February 03, 2018 08:00 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – What if you had the chance to pay less for better health care coverage?

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Almost half of New Mexico residents rely on Medicaid for health insurance, but there's a push in the Roundhouse expand access to everyone.

Lan Sena, a New Mexican battling cancer, said it’s a matter of life or death for her. She says more than 20 years ago, her grandfather died of cancer because he couldn't afford the coverage.

Now she's fighting cancer for the third time – and her dad is battling it, too – but they’re worried about the costs.

“It's asking, 'What is your life worth?' And, 'How much can you dish out?'" Sena said.

Access to affordable health care has been difficult for Sena's family for decades. She said her grandfather was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 1994 after he immigrated from Vietnam.

“My dad had to try to mortgage our house just to pay for his care, but my grandpa, you know, he did not want to have a household of 16 to be homeless and to be bankrupt," she said. "So he did not continue his care. After that he passed away."

Fast forward to 23 years later, and Sena says she finds herself at a similar crossroads.

“I have cancer and we don't really know if my insurance will cover everything,” she said, who is battling stage four Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

She's waiting for a bone marrow donor after getting a transplant three years ago.

“There was a new drug that was autoimmune chemotherapy, and that was about a million dollars for the three milligrams that I needed,” Sena said. “So of course I was underinsured. I had employer-based insurance through my parents and it still wasn't enough.”

That year, after fundraising and negotiating with her insurance company and doctors, she spent $17,000 out-of-pocket to pay for health care costs.

“90 percent of my lungs was covered in tumors,” Sena said. “So after about six months of chemotherapy and another six months later of recovery, I was back in school. Then, two years later, I relapsed.”

More bills are expected for Sena and her dad. She says his health insurance has gone up from $34 a month to $900.

“A Medicaid buy-in system would have changed the story completely. I wouldn't be underinsured. We wouldn't have to think about mortgaging our home,” she said.

It's a reality she says millions of Americans without access to Medicaid face every day.

“If it's not within my lifetime that we can actually see a real system like this for New Mexicans, I'm hopeful that it will be for future generations,” she said.

So how much would all of this cost the state? Currently, the Medicaid buy-in bill is expected to be heard on the House floor Monday. The legislation calls for a study to answer questions about what this means for New Mexicans and the economy.

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Joy Wang

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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