Investment in home visits invests in our future

By William Townley, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty Healthcare Attorney
(This op-ed appeared in the Albuquerque Journal)

Every parent knows that having a new child is incredible and wonderful, but also one of the most stressful endeavors anyone can ever hope to undertake. In New Mexico, about 27,000 children are born each year. Many of these newborns are the sons and daughters of first-time parents who are just embarking on a lifetime full of joys and the greatest of challenges.

Every child deserves the best start from birth. We know that the earliest years of our children’s lives are the most important in their social, emotional and cognitive development. Nurturing our youngest children is key to ensuring they grow up healthy and prepared to succeed in life.

But parenting is hard. And it can be especially daunting for parents who have little in resources.

Home-visiting programs can be of great help to new families, providing support and critical assistance that ranges from health care to emotional and social supports at a crucial time in a child’s brain development. 

This legislative session, our leaders have an opportunity to expand Medicaid-funded home visiting to more families statewide. Services that more New Mexicans could access include checking on the development and health of the child, screening mothers for post-partum depression, supporting breastfeeding, and connecting families to community activities.

New Mexico is already moving forward with a pilot home-visiting program for Medicaid eligible families in Bernalillo County starting in January 2019. Curry and Roosevelt counties will join the pilot later in the year. 

This pilot will implement two different models of evidence-based home visiting, Parents as Teachers and Nurse-Family Partnership, which have been found to produce higher educational and health outcomes for children. Both models measurably reduce birth complications, infant emergency medical care episodes, as well as incidence of child abuse and neglect, and successfully encourage young parents to pursue higher education and job training.

There has never been a more opportune time to invest in our children. The pilot program leverages federal funding to cover about 70 percent of the costs. If our Legislature expanded the program, our state would be able to leverage the same percentage and New Mexico could offer home visiting programs at a fraction of what it would otherwise cost the state.

For every dollar we invest in home visiting, New Mexico can save between three dollars and six dollars in remedial costs. Home visiting establishes a strong foundation for families where children can grow up healthier and safer, and parents can develop stronger parenting skills for the years to come.

We call on our governor-elect and state lawmakers to expand Medicaid-funded home visiting to all New Mexican families. We ask that you pick up the phone and do the same.

Join us to transform education in New Mexico!

We are in a historic moment that will define the future of education for children in New Mexico. In just a few weeks, the new governor and our legislators will be making important decisions about our schools. Transform Education NM invites you to join our efforts at this critical time.

Our students are strong, not only because of their intelligence and creativity, but also because of their cultures and communities. Our education system should reflect those strengths. But for decades, the state has violated the constitutional rights of students and failed to provide a sufficient education. Students who are Native American, English language learners, low-income, and students with disabilities have suffered the worst educational disparities.

Because of the landmark Yazzie/Martinez court decision this past summer, the state is finally being held accountable for this systemic failure. The court ordered the state to take immediate action to fix our schools.

A PLATFORM FOR ACTION

Together with hundreds of stakeholders, including plaintiffs in the lawsuit, as well as educators, parents, tribal leaders, education experts and community leaders, our coalition has developed a platform for action. Supported by the research and volumes of evidence that led to the court ruling, the platform is a blueprint for transformation for our schools that:

  • Reflects a multicultural and multilingual framework as a foundation for learning.
  • Values our teachers with higher pay and professional development.
  • Provides all children access to pre-kindergarten programs.
  • Ensures access to instructional materials, technology and transportation, and extended learning opportunities like summer school and more classroom time.
  • Expands social services, counseling and healthcare so students come to school ready to learn.
  • Adequately funds the schools to have the resources necessary for our children to learn and succeed, and ensures accountability for the funds.

Click here to find out how you can get involved, endorse the platform, and join the coalition! 

New Mexico is on the verge of big changes—together, we can ensure the success of our children and our state.

Read a summary of the Transform Education NM platform here. Read the full platform here.

Transform Education NM coalition members include:

New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, College Horizons, Dual Language Education of NM, Keres Children’s Learning Center, AFT New Mexico (American Federation of Teachers), Native American Community Academy (NACA), NACA Inspired School Network (NISN), Learning Alliance NM, NM Dream Team/United We Dream, Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), National Education Association NM (NEA-NM), New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education (NMABE), Coalition for the Majority, Native American Budget & Policy Institute (NABPI), New Mexico Education Action Alliance, CHI St. Joseph’s Children, NGAGE NM, The Santa Fe Indian School Leadership Institute, NM School Boards Association, The Sun Project, and current and former superintendents of school districts and plaintiff school districts (Cuba Independent School District, Gallup-McKinley County Schools, Lake Arthur Public Schools, Moriarty Edgewood School District, Rio Rancho Public Schools, Santa Fe Public Schools)

City of Las Cruces advocates for ‘Medicaid Buy-in’

City Council moved by local support and statewide momentum

LAS CRUCES–The City Council of Las Cruces, after hearing testimony from NM Together for Healthcare family leaders who live in Doña Ana County, unanimously passed a resolution today in favor of continuing the state’s efforts in pursuing a Medicaid Buy-in plan–an innovative policy that would give New Mexicans the option to buy into Medicaid even if they are not currently eligible.

“I have been a promotora, a community health worker, for 15 years in Doña Ana County and have seen the great impact that lack of medical coverage has on New Mexico’s families,” said Maxi Urrutia, a Doña Ana County resident and Strong Families New Mexico healthcare advocate.

“Over 25,000 Doña Ana County residents currently don’t have health insurance, and my parents were a part of this group. They had to choose between paying for life-saving medical treatment and rent. No one should have to make that choice. We need to provide everyone with healthcare coverage they can afford.”

Urrutia is part of NM Together for Healthcare, a family-driven campaign of community members and organizations striving to ensure that every New Mexican has access to quality, affordable healthcare.

NM Together for Healthcare’s families have been blazing a trail in healthcare reform in New Mexico by building support with decision makers statewide. Since July, local governments and tribal councils have unanimously passed six resolutions in support of exploring a Medicaid buy-in plan.

Allowing Las Cruces residents to buy into Medicaid would provide families whose employers do not offer healthcare insurance with affordable healthcare coverage. Families without health insurance do not get the medical care they need and often forego necessary medical treatment because it is too expensive.

“My father was a custodian in the public schools for over 20 years and had no medical coverage when he retired,” said Urrutia. “Both he and mother were diagnosed with serious medical conditions and weren’t able to get the treatment they needed because they didn’t have enough money. They both died from lack of medical attention.”

During the 2018 legislative session, memorials passed with bipartisan support in the New Mexico House and Senate in 2018, authorizing a study of the Medicaid Buy-in plan.

“My parents deserved a better way of living. They would still be here if they had access to medical coverage. That is why I am advocating healthcare for every New Mexican and support the Medicaid Buy-in,” said Urrutia.

The Las Cruces City Council will include this resolution in their legislative requests for the upcoming 2019 session and share the resolution with state legislators.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New MexicoPartnership for Community ActionNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email: nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.

Governor-elect can stop harmful Medicaid cuts

ALBUQUERQUE—Governor-elect Michelle Lujan-Grisham should quash serious cuts New Mexico’s Medicaid program faces in the Centennial Care 2.0 waiver approved today by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The cuts, proposed by the Human Services Department under the Susana Martinez administration, would hurt families and violate federal law according to the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

HSD’s Centennial Care 2.0 waiver proposal asked the federal government for permission to increase New Mexico’s Medicaid premiums and cut retroactive coverage. The cuts are scheduled to roll out in 2019 over a series of months.

“No one should have to choose between putting food on the table and healthcare, but that’s exactly what these cuts would do,” said William Townley, an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “We have vastly improved the health of our state by expanding the number of New Mexicans eligible for Medicaid. These cuts would have a devastating impact on our state’s families and our economy. We urge Governor-elect Lujan-Grisham to rescind or amend these harmful cuts in Centennial Care 2.0.”

HSD’s proposal imposes new patient premiums on low-income adults living just above the poverty line. Research has shown that these fees will cause thousands of New Mexicans to lose healthcare coverage. For many low-income families, the proposed increase to ten dollars a month is prohibitive and would force them to choose between healthcare and other necessities like food, housing, and transportation. In Oregon where similar premiums were imposed, 50,000 people lost coverage within nine months of the new policy.

HSD’s proposed cuts would also phase-out retroactive coverage, which pays for a Medicaid eligible person’s hospital and medical bills incurred up to three months before signing up for Medicaid. Hospital bills are especially devastating for families on limited income, often ranging from $10,000 to over $100,000. Phasing out retroactive coverage would put New Mexico’s families in jeopardy of severe medical debt and force healthcare providers to shoulder increased uncompensated care costs.

“Under federal law, CMS is only allowed to waive certain provisions in Medicaid. CMS ignored those prohibitions today, approving cuts that will reduce access to healthcare coverage and increase medical debt for New Mexico’s families,” said Abuko D. Estrada, supervising attorney for Healthcare with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

It would not be unusual for the governor-elect to rescind approved cuts. After being pressured by healthcare advocates, HSD already removed or scaled back a number of harmful provisions in earlier versions of Centennial Care 2.0, including removing premium requirements for additional groups of Medicaid enrollees, removing penalties for missed appointments, and limiting benefits and services for parent/caretakers and children enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

New Mexico Indian Affairs Committee to hear how landmark education ruling could impact Native American students

SANTA FE—Today New Mexico’s Indian Affairs Committee will hear how the recent court decision on New Mexico’s education system could impact Native American students.

The landmark ruling on the consolidated lawsuit Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico found that the state has failed to provide students—and in particular economically disadvantaged, Native American, and English language learner students—with sufficient educational opportunities as required by the state constitution, the Indian Education Act, and other state laws. The lawsuit was brought by families and school districts represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Center staff will present the IAC with evidence that New Mexico’s students are just as capable as others across the country. Unfortunately, historical and current injustices and lack of funding for programs and curricula proven to work have led to disparate outcomes for our state’s children, especially for Native students.

Center staff will also present parts of an education transformation platform—agreed upon by over a hundred people from across the state, including educators, advocates, tribal leaders, and families—that greatly expands access to culturally and linguistically relevant curricula, enhances teacher supports, and promotes proven, research-based programs such as universal pre-K and K-5 Plus, lowers class size, and increases funding for the At-Risk Index.

WHAT:    
Indian Affairs Committee hearing on Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico

WHEN:
Wednesday, November 28 at 10:15 a.m.

WHERE:
State Capitol, Room 322, 490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501

WHO:
New Mexico Indian Affairs Committee
Preston Sanchez, attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty

Taps Takeover to Benefit New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty

Please join us on Saturday, December 1 from 2-10pm at Fire & Hops Gastropub in Santa Fe for their Taps Takeover event. A portion of the event’s proceeds will benefit the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. As Albuquerque’s Bosque Brewing takes over the taps and Fire & Hops serves up delicious food specials, the Center will be discussing our advocacy. We will also be giving away two day passes to Meow Wolf to a lucky attendee! We hope to see you there!

Taking Medicaid Buy-In to the Legislature

By Abuko Estrada

Affordable healthcare coverage for all New Mexicans could soon be a reality. For the past year and a half, families across the state in the NM Together for Healthcare campaign have been talking to their communities and elected leaders about opening up Medicaid so that anyone could buy into it — even those who don’t qualify for Medicaid currently.

The vision could soon become a reality in the 2019 legislative session. Support is spreading among state policymakers for a Medicaid buy-in plan. Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham has agreed it could be the most viable path towards healthcare coverage for all New Mexicans.

In New Mexico, over 180,000 residents remain uninsured despite coverage gains made under the Affordable Care Act. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2016, 45 percent of adults said they lacked healthcare coverage due to high costs. Some are locked out of no-cost or subsidized coverage systems altogether. Others, whose incomes are just too high to qualify for Medicaid, still can’t afford coverage even with tax credits provided by the federal government.

A Medicaid buy-in option would take the healthcare coverage affordability issues head-on by leveraging Medicaid to offer individuals and families more affordable coverage than is available through the private marketplace.

With the help of the campaign, communities around the state have voiced their support for the state to provide such an option. The counties of McKinley, Bernalillo, and Doña Ana; the cities of Anthony, Sunland Park, and Albuquerque; and the All Pueblo Council of Governors passed resolutions supporting New Mexico’s exploration of a Medicaid buy-in plan.

Manatt Health Solutions, a policy and strategic advisory group, is helping the state determine the best path for such a plan through a two-phase study. The first phase, which wraps up this month, outlines the pros and cons of different Medicaid buy-in models. The second phase, which should be done by January, will look at the costs to consumers, the impact on hospitals and other healthcare providers, and the costs to the state budget from implementing one or two of the models.

Assuming the study shows a viable path for the Medicaid buy-in, the NM Together for Healthcare Coalition will work closely with legislators to develop legislation for the state to implement the plan as soon as 2020.

To follow Medicaid Buy-in’s progress in New Mexico, please sign up on the NM Together for Healthcare website. Please also call your local representative and senator to let them know you want them to pass Medicaid buy-in legislation during the 2019 legislative session.

‘Tis the season for chartiable giving!

Tuesday, November 27 is #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving when we celebrate the power of community philanthropy. Backed by the strength and support of our communities, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty has made remarkable progress this year. Consider giving a contribution on November 27 to honor and continue our work!

DOUBLE YOUR DONATION ON NOVEMBER 27! By making a gift to the Center on #GivingTuesdayNM, your donation will be matched up to $1,700 by gifts from our generous sponsors:
State Employees Credit Union
Print Express
Document Technologies
and an anonymous individual donor.
A huge THANK YOU to our #GivingTuesday sponsors for their support!

Follow our #GivingTuesday progress on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Doña Ana unanimously backs ‘Medicaid Buy-in’

County Commissioners moved by local support and statewide momentum

DONA ANA COUNTY—The Doña Ana Board of County Commissioners after hearing testimony from New Mexico Together for Healthcare family leaders who live in Doña Ana County, unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday in favor of continuing the state’s efforts to shape a healthcare solution that would open up Medicaid for any New Mexican to buy into—regardless of their current Medicaid eligibility.

“Before I had Medicaid, I didn’t have insurance, and I was turned away when I went to the doctor,” said Maria Burciaga, a Doña Ana county resident and Strong Families New Mexico healthcare advocate. “I once saved $1500 to partially pay for a necessary treatment, but was told I could not get seen until I had the full amount, which was $4000. The expansion of Medicaid allowed me to access healthcare and get that treatment. We need to continue to pursue the Medicaid Buy-in to give even more access to even more people.”

Burciaga is part of NM Together for Healthcare, a family-driven, multi-racial campaign working statewide to provide healthcare access that is affordable to all New Mexicans.

Family leaders have been working tirelessly, reaching out to policy makers and building support in communities across New Mexico. ince July, six resolutions in support of studying a Medicaid Buy-in option have passed unanimously in local counties and city governments as well in sovereign nations across the state.

Community members, state and local experts and policymakers have become more interested in this innovative plan since the bipartisan passing of the Medicaid Buy-in memorials in the New Mexico House and Senate during the 2018 legislative session.

A Medicaid Buy-in plan would allow New Mexicans who are currently not eligible for Medicaid the option to buy into an affordable healthcare coverage plan that leverages Medicaid.

With more than 180,000 New Mexicans without health insurance, including over 25,000 Doña Ana County residents, a Medicaid Buy-in plan could substantially lower uninsured rates by utilizing the already popular and successful Medicaid model. Medicaid already covers over 830,000 New Mexicans, including over 104,000 Doña Ana County residents.

“I’m really passionate about this campaign because in 2014 I had kidney stones and couldn’t afford the surgery I needed, until I was able to access Medicaid. Without Medicaid, I would have had to take out a loan to cover the expenses and I would have gone into debt,” said Burciaga. “Having Medicaid has helped me to address my healthcare issues, and everyone should be able to afford to do this.”

The Doña Ana Board of County Commissioners will include this resolution in their legislative requests for the upcoming 2019 session and share the resolution with state legislators.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New Mexico, Partnership for Community Action, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.

Proposed Medicaid cuts would force New Mexicans to go without healthcare

ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico’s Human Services Department proposed cuts to Medicaid would hurt families and violate federal law, said the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty in comments submitted yesterday on the department’s Centennial Care 2.0 waiver proposal.

“Everyone needs access to healthcare coverage,” said William Townley, an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “But HSD’s proposed cuts to Medicaid would force many New Mexican families to go into debt or simply drop coverage. That’s bad news for all of us. We know that when people go without healthcare, it’s much harder for them to maintain their financial stability, be productive in the workforce, or continue their education.”

HSD’s proposal imposes new patient premiums on low-income adults living just above the poverty line. Research has shown that these fees will cause thousands of New Mexicans to lose healthcare coverage. For many low-income families, the proposed increase to $10 a month is prohibitive and would force them to choose between healthcare and other necessities like food, housing, and transportation.

Hospital bills are especially devastating for families on limited income, often ranging from $10,000 to over $100,000. Yet, HSD’s proposed cuts would also phase-out retroactive coverage, which pays for a Medicaid eligible person’s hospital and medical bills incurred up to three months before signing up for Medicaid. Phasing out retroactive coverage would put New Mexico’s families in jeopardy of severe medical debt and force healthcare providers to shoulder increased uncompensated care costs.

New Mexicans have voiced overwhelming opposition to HSD’s proposed cuts to Medicaid. Throughout the entire Centennial Care 2.0 waiver application process, patients, providers, stakeholders, researchers, advocates and community members were nearly unanimously opposed to these changes.

HSD’s proposed Medicaid cuts also violate federal law. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) can only approve waivers of federal Medicaid requirements that are listed under Section 1115 of the Medicaid Act. Provisions that govern cost-sharing, such as premiums, and retroactive coverage are outside of Section 1115, meaning CMS lacks legal authority to waive such requirements. CMS has not yet approved the regulatory changes proposed in HSD’s new regulations.

The Center’s comments can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/NMCLP-Comment-on-HSDs-Medicaid-Cuts2018-10-25.pdf

 

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The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is dedicated to advancing economic and social justice through education, advocacy, and litigation. We work with low-income New Mexicans to improve living conditions, increase opportunities, and protect the rights of people living in poverty.