Medicaid buy-in could be a reality in New Mexico

by Mandisa Routheni

An innovative plan to open up Medicaid so that anyone could buy into it — even if they don’t qualify for Medicaid currently — is gaining momentum in our state and country. Medicaid buy-in bills have been introduced in Congress as the idea is being explored in New Mexico, Colorado, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Colorado, and Oklahoma. But New Mexico has made more progress than anywhere in the country. 

Family leaders share their own stories about why the Medicaid Buy-in is important to them. Click here for video.

People from all walks of life have come together in the NM Together for Healthcare campaign to create our own healthcare solution.

Just last night, after hearing from local family health leaders in the campaign, the City of Sunland Park City Council  unanimously passed a resolution in favor of exploring a Medicaid buy-in plan in New Mexico.  In June, community members  from the campaign testified before the McKinley County Commission, which unanimously passing a similar resolution.  

Olga Hernandez, a promotora and long-time Sunland Park resident said, “The passing of this resolution sends a clear message to legislators that Sunland Park is in support of a Medicaid buy-in plan. It is a priority and the time is now for healthcare access for all New Mexicans.”

Family leaders are continuing to work in Bernalillo and Doña Ana counties to garner more support through resolutions and holding convenings throughout New Mexico.

Late July, on the 53rd anniversary of Medicaid, families affected by lack of affordable healthcare and organizations from across the state and country met in Albuquerque to discuss a Medicaid buy-in plan that would provide access to quality, affordable healthcare for the uninsured and a feasible alternative for those who have insurance, but cannot afford the out-of-pocket costs.

Medicaid already covers 40 percent of New Mexicans and has provided low cost coverage to New Mexicans for over 50 years. Yet over 180,000 people are still uninsured in our state, including immigrant and undocumented populations. For those that have insurance, healthcare costs are often unsustainable and continue to rise.

Berenice Campas, a New Mexico Together for Healthcare family leader from Bernalillo County sees the Medicaid Buy-in as an important “way for lots of families from around the state to have access to health care. They wouldn’t have to wait to have an emergency before being able to go in.”

Family leaders in the campaign, along with local advocates such as Congressman Ben Ray Lujan and national healthcare experts like Andy Slavitt, agreed at the July meeting that a well-designed Medicaid buy-in plan would be a key step towards solving our state’s healthcare crisis.

During the 2018 legislative session, memorials to explore the Medicaid Buy-in passed with bipartisan support in both the New Mexico House and Senate.

Christopher Hudson, a New Mexico Together for Healthcare leader from McKinley County hopes for a  Medicaid Buy-in option because “families, around my communities, my friends, my K’e’- in Navajo – that is our family, our surroundings, everyone will be be able to afford insurance without having to decide whether they want to pay for a doctor’s bill or gas bill.”

Join the movement. Follow NM Together for Healthcare on Twitter, Facebook, and sign up for updates on our website.


New Mexicans can now more easily access identification cards

New Mexico has a two-tiered driver’s license system that gives New Mexicans the choice to opt in or out of the federal REAL ID Act requirements. However, the Motor Vehicles Division was illegally denying access to the REAL ID alternative by requiring unnecessary and burdensome paperwork. MVD also illegally denied licenses and IDs without informing people that they could appeal a denial.

On behalf of New Mexicans illegally denied the second tier licenses and IDs, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty along with Somos un Pueblo Unido, New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, the ACLU-NM, and Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Urias & Ward PA sued the state and the MVD ultimately agreed to a settlement.

After filing for a temporary restraining order, the MVD immediately eliminated the illegal requirement to get a non-REAL ID and agreed to notify families about the appeals process. The final settlement agreement requires MVD to train workers, provide accurate informational materials to the public and on its website, and to engage in a public information campaign to notify New Mexicans of the new requirements.

You can find a press release about the victory here:

The settlement agreement can be found here:

PED scraps retention rule for five to eight-year-olds

By Marina Candace Butler

We all want our children to be good readers – it’s critical for a successful life. We know that our children are just as capable of learning to read as kids anywhere, but they need the right programs that will actually help them learn.

Center staff attorney, Lauren Winkler discusses PED’s proposed rule and what we really need to improve literacy rates. Click here for video.

What we do know is that flunking kids does not help them learn. In fact, children who are held back don’t do as well in school and have a greater risk of dropping out. New Mexico already has one of the lowest graduation rates rates in the country—25 percent of our students don’t finish school. Despite this, the PED proposed a regulation that would require school districts to retain five to eight-year-olds in kindergarten through third grade if they don’t score at grade level on a single state-determined high stakes test.

Along with New Mexico families and other allies, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty spoke out against the rule, and the department decided to stop its efforts to hold our youngest students back. Now those who know the child best can decide what steps should be taken to increase literacy.

Instead of broadening the ineffective and harmful practice of holding children back in school, we should increase access to the evidenced-based programs that actually help our children learn to read. For example, we know that PreK, K-3 Plus, extended learning time, and professional development closes achievement gaps.

Unfortunately, at least 52,000 New Mexico students do not have access to K-3 Plus. 23,000 don’t have access to full-day New Mexico Pre-K. Our teachers are among the lowest paid in the country. Instead of adopting these evidence based programs, the PED still intends to continue one-size-fits-all testing that fails our children and schools.

If we want our children and our state to succeed, we need to invest in the future of New Mexico’s children.

Celebrating our Summer 2018 Legal Interns

The New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty would like to recognize its three outstanding summer legal interns: Yarrow Allaire, Erika Avila Stephanz, and Verenice Peregrino Pompa.

Yarrow Allaire

Yarrow Allaire worked with the Center’s Workers’ Rights team focusing on combating wage theft. She is a recipient of the Peggy Browning Fellowship for dedicated students who are interested in pursuing work in labor law and workers’ rights.

Allaire, who grew up on a small farm in Albuquerque’s South Valley, first chose teaching as a career. She taught geography to ninth graders in McAllen, Texas and later government, economics, and New Mexico history to high school students in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Her personal history and teaching experience made Allaire keenly aware of barriers to opportunity because of race, class, gender, and geography. She decided to go to law school to advocate for legal reforms that promote economic and social justice for all people.

Allaire holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of New Mexico. She will graduate from the UNM School of Law in 2020.

Erika Avila Stephanz

Erika Avila Stephanz worked with the Center’s Fair Lending team, which advocates for access to fair loans under reasonable terms for all New Mexicans. She is a recipient of the Seth Montgomery Fellowship for outstanding law students who have demonstrated an interest in public interest law.

A native of Albuquerque, Avila Stephanz worked outside the state for several years. The stark inequality and lack of resources for so many New Mexicans, however, motivated her to pursue systematic change locally, and she plans to continue to address socioeconomic inequality in our state.

Avila Stephanz served on the executive board of the Mexican American Law Student Association (MALSA) and is a current member of the organization. She has a dual BA in Psychology and Spanish from the University of New Mexico. She will graduate from the UNM School of Law in 2019.

Verenice Peregrino Pompa

Verenice Peregrino Pompa worked with the Center’s Education team, focusing on equitable access to education for children in New Mexico, especially Native American children and children in juvenile detention. She is a recipient of the Craig Othmer Fellowship for committed students motivated to pursue a career in public interest law.

Peregrino Pompa’s personal experiences in the rural public schools she attended in Chihuahua, Mexico and the San Luis Valley in Colorado inspired her to fight for equal access to resources for all students. As a Mexican immigrant student in the San Luis Valley, Peregrino Pompa had firsthand experience with the lack of resources available to minority students, immigrant students, and English language learners (ELL). She looks forward to a future in public policy and advocacy.

Peregrino Pompa is the Multicultural Relations Editor of UNM’s Tribal Law Journal and the president of MALSA. She has a B.S. in Biology from the University of New Mexico and will graduate from the UNM School of Law in 2019.