Day 464 and Counting: Heather Wilson Refuses To Stand Up To Her Party’s Attacks On Medicare

It’s been 464 days since Republican Senate candidate Heather Wilson refused to take a position on her party’s budget proposal that would end Medicare as we know it and weaken the middle class. New Mexicans want to know: When will Heather Wilson make it clear where she stands?

The Republican budget proposal, crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, was introduced on April 11, 2011. It calls for radical policy changes that would gut Medicare and force nearly 300,000 New Mexico seniors into a voucher program when they retire. As a result, New Mexico seniors would pay as much as $5,900 more each year for their health care.

After 464 days, Heather Wilson has not come out for or against her party’s budget proposal. “Congresswoman Wilson refuses to say whether she would vote for her Party’s budget that guts Medicare,” said Whitney Potter, a spokeswoman for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Martin Heinrich. “If Heather Wilson won’t refute conservative attacks on Medicare on the campaign trail, how can she be trusted to stand up to the Republican Tea Party agenda in Washington?”

Martin Heinrich, who been endorsed by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, has always fought efforts to privatize Medicare, which would leave seniors to fend for themselves against big insurance companies.

“Generations of seniors have been able to live independently and with dignity because of the safety net provided by Medicare. Martin believes that we must keep the promises we’ve made to our nation’s seniors,” said Potter. “Martin knows that we can and must balance our budget, but he will never agree to doing so on the backs of New Mexico seniors.”

Senator Udall Speaks out on Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic

At a Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control hearing, held yesterday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall spoke out on the emerging threat of prescription drug abuse and overdoses in New Mexico and the need to combat the epidemic nationwide. At the hearing Senator Udall  underscored the emerging threat to individuals in our state and to our communities.

“New Mexico has the sad distinction of having the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country. It is tragic and it is unacceptable,” said Udall, a member of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. “Since 2007, more New Mexicans have overdosed and died from prescription drugs —like oxycodone, morphine and methadone— than from illicit drugs, like heroin and cocaine.”

During the hearing, Udall also noted that in the last decade alone, New Mexico’s prescription drug overdose rate has increased by more than 60 percent and that prescription drug abuse is often a gateway to heroin for young people.

Director of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske testified that communities across the country have witnessed increases in substance abuse treatment admissions, emergency department visits, and most disturbingly, overdose deaths attributable to prescription drug overdoses.

Other witnesses agreed and called for better technology and coordination to track the number of separate prescriptions and amount of pills distributed to one individual. They also asked for more prescription drug reclaiming centers to prevent unused opiates from falling into the wrong hands, and wider access to treatment facilities.

Witnesses testifying included parent-advocates who recounted heart-wrenching stories of their children who died as a result of prescription drug addictions.

“In case you don’t know, there’s a severe shortage in this country for rehab facilities for young adults ages 18-25,” said Avi Israel, whose son Michael became addicted to prescription drugs after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at an early age.

“Rather than find the source of Michael’s pain, all three of his doctors supplied Michael with a plethora of drugs,“ Israel said. “The United states has 4.6 percent of the world’s population, yet consumes 99.8 percent of the hydrocodone produced in the world.”

Udall and the Caucus concluded the hearing with a commitment to working with witnesses and advocates on a set of legislative actions that can be taken to help combat this rising crisis.