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By: Marlene C. Baca, CEO of New Mexico Health Connections

As we near the end of the year, we naturally begin planning for 2019. When you make resolutions for better financial and physical health at the start of the new year, health insurance may not be at the top of your list. However, adequate health coverage will have a dramatic impact on both your financial and your overall health and well-being.

But the time for you to take action is not January 1 – the time is now. Open Enrollment for individual health coverage began on November 15 and ends at midnight on December 15, 2018 for coverage that begins January 1, 2019.

If you think you cannot afford health insurance, consider what might happen if you don’t have it. Insurance protects your financial and physical health. It offers you peace of mind that if something goes wrong, you and your family will be covered. No one plans to get sick or hurt, but health problems can come up very unexpectedly. Whether it’s a broken bone, appendicitis, a sports injury, a car accident, or a serious health diagnosis, you and your family could be stuck with staggering medical costs if you do not have adequate coverage.

By Cisco McSorley, NM State Senator

The Albuquerque Journal reported on September 17 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warnings to 22 New Mexico businesses and fined one of them this past summer for selling electronic cigarettes to minors. It is of course illegal to sell e-cigarettes and tobacco to people younger than 18. Since the perpetrators include some of the nation’s largest mainstream retailers and convenience stores, including Walmart, Walgreen’s and 7-Eleven, itshould illustrate to policy makers and citizens alike why tough, urgent action is needed at the state and local level.

Earlier the federal FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated that e-cigarette use, or ‘vaping’, among teenagers nationally now has reached “an epidemic proportion”. New Mexico’s youth are no exception. He subsequently announced new, sweeping government enforcement to halt sales to minors, targeting both manufacturers and retailers. Commissioner Gottlieb listened to public health advocates, parents and teachers, and is to be commended for his bold decision - but much more help is needed.

E-cigarette devices heat liquid - frequently infused with nicotine - into an inhalable vapor. They are sold in over 7,000 sugary flavors targeted to kids, like mango, cherry, strawberry and cotton candy. New high-tech, high-nicotine vaping products like Juuls and Blu are addicting a whole new generation of young people, putting them at risk for even more dangerous smoking tobacco use that would reverse decades of progress. More than 30 percent of teens who use electronic cigarettes go on to smoke traditional tobacco within six months of beginning the use the electronic versions.

The Rio Grande Foundation is a non-partisan organization, but like so many other New Mexicans we followed the recent election closely and were surprised by the “blue tsunami” that hit our State.

As a policy-driven organization, we look forward, not back. That said, the utter devastation of the GOP and most fiscally-conservative candidates on Election Day will make the 2019 Legislature and beyond quite interesting. We have a number of questions that we don’t know the answers to, but we hope will frame the policy discussion as we move forward:

I counted on you. You can count on me

As the dust settles from the midterm elections and we assess where we are as a country, I find myself being very grateful to live in New Mexico’s House District 38.

In a year when many political races became acrimonious and bitter, the voters of Grant, Hidalgo and Sierra Counties elevated the political dialog in their communities. Every person I met on the campaign trail asked thoughtful questions about ways we can improve life in New Mexico, and they carefully evaluated the answers that were presented to them.

By: Mary McGinnis, Counselor & Poet

Having been blind from birth, public transit is a vital part of my daily life. I’ve lived in Santa Fe since 1982, and have been a regular transit rider since paratransit services began in the early 1990s.

Due to my blindness, I have some difficulty with spatial concepts and did not start to receive mobility training until the age of 18. Prior to the availability of transit, I relied on my partner to get to and from work. This severely limited my freedom and my independence.

Because of this, I was one of the initial advocates for both a bus system and paratransit system in Santa Fe. Since the successful accomplishment of our goals, I have been a rider on Santa Fe Trails and Santa Fe Ride on almost a daily basis. For me and others like me, transit is not simply another service; it is the service that affords us basic freedoms and the ability to get where we want or need to go without having to rely heavily upon friends and family members—most of whom have their own busy schedules.

By Rep. Gail Armstrong (R-District 49)

Every year on Veterans Day we, as a nation, honor those members of the armed forces who have put their lives on the line to defend the civil liberties we enjoy. These women and men have all made tremendous sacrifices in service to the ideals of this country; that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with the right to live in freedom and pursue their dreams.

There will be speeches, flyovers, and salutes. Then, on November 12, many Americans will wake up and resume their daily lives.

By James Jimenez and Brian Etheridge, MD

Democracy is “a system of government by the whole population.” By that definition, everyone’s participation is needed in order to keep a democracy alive and well. There is no act of democracy more foundational than voting. Casting a vote is more than exercising your right as a citizen. It’s about accepting the responsibility of citizenship. It’s about affirming that you are a part of something larger than yourself.

In much the same way, elections are about more than sending new or returning leaders to our state and nation’s capitals to enact laws and budget money. Elections are also about what vision we share for the future, what projects we choose to build to improve our quality of life, what problems we decide to work together to solve. Election issues are at the very heart of the values that matter most to us and our families – educating our children, improving our communities, protecting our rights, safety, and the world around us.

heather balasHeather Balas of New Mexico First Submitted by Heather Balas of New Mexico First

Questions remain on healthcare, economy and their approaches to collaborative governance.

“Often, we are presented with a false choice between stewarding our environment and building our economy. How can we take care of both?” This question, offered by Mark Childs of Albuquerque, is one of more than 50 questions developed by New Mexicans for the state's gubernatorial candidates as part of a televised debate that aired Oct. 16 on KOB-TV.

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