Court hearing on HSD compliance with orders to remove barriers to food and medical assistance next Thursday

LAS CRUCES—On Thursday at 10:30 a.m., in U.S. District Court in Las Cruces, Judge Kenneth Gonzales will hear an update on the New Mexico Human Services Department’s compliance with multiple court orders to remove barriers to food and medical assistance for eligible families.

At the hearing, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty will provide information about a statistically significant review of food and medical assistance cases conducted between September 2018 to February 2019. Both the court appointed Special Master and the plaintiffs, represented by the Center, found that New Mexicans are still not getting the food and medical assistance they need because HSD continues to violate the law.

According to an extensive review by the Center of HSD client cases, HSD made errors in 202 out of 288 cases—an error rate of 70%. These errors led to 109 households of the 288 cases reviewed losing food or medical assistance, sometimes both. The Special Master validated nearly all these findings. The review found that HSD continues to illegally deny food and medical assistance in the following ways:

  • HSD illegally denies food and medical assistance to families who fail to provide unnecessary paperwork.
  • HSD’s own quality assurance team failed to find the vast majority of the errors found by the Center and the Special Master.
  • HSD does not consistently apply eligibility policy and application procedures.
  • HSD does not accurately inform families about their eligibility and what is needed to process their case.
  • HSD’s management team lacks expertise to administer food and medical programs in accordance with federal law.
  • HSD’s IT system requires changes to accurately process applications for benefits.

In September 2016, Judge Gonzales held former HSD Secretary Brent Earnest in contempt for failing to remove barriers to assistance for eligible families. The court appointed a Special Master to monitor and make recommendations to the department. In April 2018, the judge set a series of deadlines for HSD compliance with court ordered reforms.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty report on it’s case review can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/nmclp-report-on-hsd-case-review-2019-02-25-redacted/

The Gonzales v. Earnest joint status report can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/doc-873-joint-status-report-2019-05-01/

WHAT:
U.S District Court status conference on HSD compliance with court orders in Deborah Hatten Gonzales v. Brent Earnest, No. 88-385 KG/CG

WHEN:
Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 10:30 a.m.

WHERE:
United States Courthouse
4th Floor, North Tower, Mimbres Courtroom
100 N. Church Street
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88001

WHO:
New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty attorneys
Court Appointed Special Master Lawrence M. Parker
HSD Secretary and Attorneys

Legislative Wrap Up 2019

Dear friends,

This legislative session was a turning point for New Mexico. The efforts of the Center on Law and Poverty and our partners paved the way for historic changes for our state and started long overdue dialogue about the bold changes that must be made for children and families. This could not have happened without you! THANK YOU for the countless phone calls, emails to your legislators, testimony in committee hearings, and sharing of information with your networks and through social media.

We have much to celebrate together and are especially proud to share several major victories.

Our advocacy efforts and expert testimony were instrumental in achieving:

Historic wins for workers in New Mexico
Domestic and home care workers are now protected by basic labor laws. Along with our partners, we successfully eliminated outdated, discriminatory practices in our state so people doing some of the toughest jobs, like caring for others’ loved ones and cleaning houses, are protected by New Mexico’s minimum wage standards and other wage protections.

After a decade of stagnant wages, hard working New Mexicans will finally get a raise. Hundreds of workers from across New Mexico mobilized in support of a wage increase this session. It was a long and challenging fight, but starting in January 2020, the state minimum wage will be raised to $9 an hour and increase annually until reaching $12 an hour in 2023. This will directly impact 150,901 workers in our state—nearly 20 percent of the workforce.

Loopholes closed in small loans laws
Everyone should be able to understand the terms of their loans, especially when these loans are taken out from storefront lenders. Our advocacy with our partners led to significantly more accountability and transparency by mandating that lenders report relevant data to the state and by aligning our small loan laws so all New Mexico families receive fairer loans.

Public education a top priority
After winning the Yazzie/Martinez court ruling on behalf of families and school districts, we joined with education, tribal and community leaders, and students to form the Transform Education NM coalition and used this historic opportunity to bring education to the forefront this legislative session. New Mexico’s education system must be rooted in a multicultural framework for our diverse student body, and our coalition won much needed funding for culturally and linguistically responsive instruction in rural areas. Overall, New Mexico saw an increase in education funding, and teachers got long overdue raises. However, we still have a long way to go, and we will not stop until every child has the education they need to succeed and are entitled to by the New Mexico Constitution. 

Progress toward innovative and affordable health coverage
Dozens of families, healthcare professionals, and advocates joined the NM Together for Healthcare campaign to work tirelessly for a Medicaid Buy-in option for New Mexicans who struggle to afford the outrageous costs of private insurance but don’t qualify for Medicaid. The Human Services Department will now receive funding to further study and begin the administrative development of a public option plan, including pursuing federal funding to help pay for it.

The path ahead
We’re focused on New Mexico’s future, and together with you, we will continue to push for complete transformation of our education system, expansion of early childhood education—including pre-K, childcare assistance and home visiting services—better pay and working conditions for workers, financial and food security, and access to healthcare for all of our families.

Sincerely,

Sireesha Manne                                                  
Executive Director

New Mexico Families Celebrate Legislature’s Funding Medicaid Buy-in

Money Appropriated to Study, Develop Innovative Health Coverage Plan

SANTA FE—New Mexico Together for Healthcare on Saturday celebrated a big win for New Mexico families after the Legislature adjourned having appropriated funding to the Human Services Department to further study and begin the administrative development of a Medicaid Buy-in plan, including pursuing federal funding to help pay for it.

“This is a tremendous step forward,” said Strong Families New Mexico Field Director Adriann Barboa. “Because of the leadership of the New Mexico Legislature, our state is leading the nation in moving forward toward creating a Medicaid Buy-in plan so that all families can access quality, affordable healthcare coverage.”

Between the two “Junior” spending bills, SB 536 and HB 548, the Legislature allocated $142,000 for Fiscal Year 2020 for the “study and administrative development of a Medicaid Buy-in plan.”

Initial study of a potential Medicaid Buy-in plan in New Mexico, which was called for by memorials passed in the 2018 legislative session, showed that a buy-in is a cost-effective way to insure the thousands of New Mexicans who are currently without coverage. The additional study called for by the Legislature this year will build on previous research and specifically explore ways to set up the plan to cover the most people possible. The “administrative development” component allows HSD to prepare to implement Medicaid Buy-in, including seeking federal waivers to receive federal financing for the plan.

“No New Mexican should go without healthcare because they cannot afford it,” said Abuko D. Estrada, Supervising Attorney for Healthcare with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “Without health insurance coverage, though, 190,000 New Mexicans currently have to choose between putting food on the table and seeing a doctor. With the Legislature’s support for Medicaid Buy-in, families will no longer have to make those impossible choices.”

Maria Burciaga, a promotora from Sunland Park, applauded the Legislature for appropriating the funding.

“With many other families, my brother-in-law and I spent as much time as we could over the past two months in Santa Fe talking with legislators, testifying in committees and educating people about Medicaid Buy-in,” Burciaga said. “This funding shows that the Legislature listened to the people. New Mexicans need access to affordable healthcare.”

In addition to the families who spoke out at the Legislature, recent statewide polling found strong support, regardless of political affiliation, for Medicaid Buy-in in New Mexico.

The Medicaid Buy-in is a healthcare coverage plan that would be administered by the state and would allow eligible New Mexico residents to pay affordable monthly premiums to receive the same trusted health coverage that Medicaid has provided for more than 50 years.

“For too long too many New Mexicans have had to choose between paying their bills and getting the healthcare they need,” Colin Baillio, Director of Policy and Communication with Health Action NM said. “New Mexicans—and the members of Legislature–know that it’s time for a change. With this investment in developing a Medicaid Buy-in plan, we will create the change families need and deserve.”

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial coalition of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New MexicoNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, Health Action New Mexico and United States of Care. The campaign’s website is http://nmtogether4health.org/ Follow the campaign on Facebook @NMTogether4Healthcare and Twitter @NMT4HC.

Memorial to expand home visiting services passed by Senate Public Affairs Committee

SANTA FE— A memorial establishing an advisory council to develop a plan for the statewide expansion of a Medicaid-financed home visiting system in New Mexico, will head to the Senate floor following a “do-pass” vote today in the Senate Public Affairs Committee. Home visiting programs provide support and critical assistance for families that range from health care to emotional and social supports at a crucial time in a child’s brain development. Senate Memorial 117, Medicaid Home Visiting Program Council, is sponsored by Senator Linda M. Lopez.

“Every child deserves the best start from birth. Nurturing our state’s youngest children is key to ensuring they grow up healthy and prepared to succeed in life,” said William Townley, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “We’re optimistic that the memorial will pass the Senate.”

If passed by the New Mexico Senate, SM 117 would convene a council of home visiting providers and heads of the Human Services Department, Children, Youth and Families Department, Department of Health, and the Children’s Cabinet to make recommendations for expanding home visiting across the state through Medicaid financing.

Research shows that home visiting helps establish a strong foundation for families so children can grow up healthier and parents can develop stronger parenting skills. Home visiting programs that currently exist in New Mexico provide a team of professionals to help families learn about healthcare, child development, and parenting skills. Other services can include screening mothers for postpartum depression, supporting breastfeeding, and connecting families to community activities.

Unfortunately, most New Mexican families do not have access to home visiting services. Most services are offered by private non-profits that cannot scale up to meet the large unmet need in the state.

“Offering education early in a child’s life is essential in helping families succeed,” said Townley. “It would be good for everyone in New Mexico if more families could access home visiting.”

ACTION ALERT: Fund Medicaid Buy-in plan

Please join us in contacting key members of the Senate Finance Committee (SFC) and ask them to amend House Bill 2 to include $4 million of non-recurring funds to setup a Medicaid Buy-in plan.

The Human Services Department needs the $4 million to ensure it can setup the Medicaid Buy-in plan by  January 1, 2021, which is required in the Medicaid Buy-in Act (HB 416/SB 405) moving through the Legislature.

The calls are quick and easy! A staff member for each senator will answer the phone. You’ll give them your name and ask them to tell the senator to amend House Bill 2 to include the $4 million in non-recurring funding for the Human Services Department to implement the Medicaid Buy-in.

Senator:Phone Number:
John Arthur Smith(505) 986-4365
George Muñoz(505) 986-4371
John Sapien(505) 986-4301

*Senators Campos, Candelaria, Cisneros and Rodriguez are supportive of the amendment. If you see them or want to give them a call, please thank them for their support.

Victory! Governor Moves to Stop Harmful Medicaid Cuts

VGreat news! Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced yesterday that her administration has asked the federal government to reverse harmful cuts in the Centennial Care 2.0 Medicaid waiver, regarding premiums, co-pays, and phasing out retroactive coverage.

With your support over the last two years, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty fought these drastic cuts along with other provisions in the waiver that would have reduced healthcare services for parents and caretakers living in deep poverty and New Mexico children’s ability to grow into healthy adults.

Every step of the way, we stood together to attend public hearings, share stories, make phone calls, and write comments. Our efforts worked! 

In response to our advocacy, the Human Services Department and federal government scaled back the cuts piece by piece in the past year. Governor Lujan Grisham’s decision now strikes down the last of them. Her decision aligns with our stance that these cuts would have caused thousands of low-income New Mexicans to lose healthcare coverage, shifted more costs to healthcare providers, and raised overall costs for our healthcare system and state budget.

Thank you to Governor Lujan Grisham and an especially big thank you to all of you for your advocacy to protect access to healthcare for low-income New Mexicans!

Governor reverses Medicaid cuts in Centennial Care 2.0 waiver

Advocacy efforts conclude in a victory for families


SANTA FE—Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham reversed serious cuts to New Mexico’s Medicaid program yesterday following two years of advocacy efforts by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, community organizations, and healthcare providers. Under the Susana Martinez administration, New Mexico’s Human Services Department had proposed major cuts to healthcare services as part of the Centennial Care 2.0 waiver, many of which were approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in December 2018.  

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty led the efforts to fight the cuts that would have implemented premiums for some Medicaid patients, cut retroactive coverage, and instituted mandatory co-pays.

“We owe a huge thanks to Governor Lujan Grisham for reversing these harmful measures and to the advocates and families who fought tirelessly over the last two years for the health and wellbeing of all New Mexicans,” said Abuko D. Estrada, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “Piece by piece, we’ve successfully fought the cuts in the Centennial Care 2.0 waiver that would have led to thousands of families losing healthcare coverage and shifted an unfair burden of costs to healthcare providers and the healthcare system.”  

The governor’s rejection of the waiver is the latest in a series of positive actions the new administration has taken to improve the health and wellbeing of New Mexicans. Since taking office, Lujan-Grisham has set forth plans to reach uninsured New Mexicans who are eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled and help them apply. The governor has also been publicly supportive of bills, currently working their way through the legislature, that would open up a Medicaid Buy-in option for New Mexicans who do not otherwise have access to affordable healthcare coverage.

Speak up, Show Up and Fight for Affordable Healthcare!

Please support and give public comment on the Medicaid Buy-in Act (also known as Senate Bill 405 sponsored by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino) in the Senate Public Affairs this THURSDAY (2/14) at 1:30pm (or half hour after the floor session) in Room 321.

JOIN THE MOVEMENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

The Medicaid Buy-in Act

  • Improves access to healthcare by expanding coverage for people who are uninsured and reduces the costs of health insurance.
  • Reduces uncompensated care costs for healthcare providers and hospitals by covering more patients.
  • Is a state-based coverage solution that leverages the existing popular and trusted Medicaid infrastructure, which already covers over 830,000 New Mexicans.

TELL YOUR LEGISLATOR TO VOTE YES FOR MEDICAID BUY-IN

Between now and the committee hearing on Thursday, we ask that you contact Senate Public Affairs members and ask them to VOTE YES for the Medicaid Buy-in Act. Please see the linked factsheets (English and Spanish) as well as this legislative toolkit for more details.

New Mexico families testify in support of Medicaid Buy-in

Mothers, Elders Tell of Being Unable to Afford Care for Themselves, Their Families

SANTA FE–Dozens of New Mexico families, as part of the New Mexico Together for Healthcare campaign, testified before the House Health and Human Services Committee on Friday morning in support of HB 416, The Medicaid Buy-in Act, because the legislation would create greater access to quality, affordable healthcare.

Those speaking include Alanna Ranger, a young mother from Gallup, who made too much to qualify for Medicaid and did not make enough to be able to afford private health coverage.

“When my husband and I decided to start a family, we didn’t have insurance,” Ranger said. “We were both working two jobs, but we didn’t have coverage. We had to make very difficult decisions to figure out how to get the care my baby and I needed. That’s no way to start a family. Medicaid Buy-in would make insurance affordable for families like mine.”

The Medicaid Buy-in Act calls on the Health and Human Services Department to create and implement by 2021 a program to allow New Mexicans not currently eligible for Medicaid, Medicare or Affordable Care Act subsidies to pay monthly premiums to “buy-in” to Medicaid.

Maria Burciaga, a promotora from Sunland Park, told the committee that the Buy-in would help her and people in her community.

“In 2014, I got sick,” Burciaga told the committee. “The hospital said I needed to pay $4,000 upfront. I did what I could and I managed to get $1,500, but the hospital still wouldn’t care for me because I didn’t have insurance. The hospitals won’t take care of us because we cannot afford it. Medicaid Buy-in is a good alternative for us.”

New Mexico Together for Healthcare members Colin Baillio, Director of Policy and Communication with Health Action New Mexico, and Abuko Estrada, Supervising Attorney for Healthcare with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, served as expert witnesses on the bill.

“New Mexico families deserve access to the affordable, quality healthcare they need to thrive,” Estrada said. “Medicaid Buy-in creates an unprecedented opportunity to increase access to healthcare.”

Baillio cited recent polling data that show that 74 percent of New Mexicans—regardless of political party—support Medicaid Buy-in.

“For too long too many New Mexicans have had to choose between paying their bills or getting the healthcare they need,” Baillio said. “New Mexicans know that it’s time for a change. Medicaid Buy-in will create the change they need—and deserve.”

Due to a request for technical amendments to HB 416 made by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Debbie Armstrong, the committee did not vote on the bill on Friday. Instead, the bill will be amended and voted on at Monday’s Health and Human Services Committee meeting.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial coalition of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New MexicoNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, Health Action New Mexico and United States of Care. The campaign’s website is http://nmtogether4health.org/ Follow the campaign on Facebook @NMTogether4Healthcare and Twitter @NMT4HC.

Ahead of First Hearing, New Mexicans Share Healthcare Stories, Support for Medicaid Buy-in

Cancer patients, grandmothers want Buy-in to help their families & communities

With the first hearing for The Medicaid Buy-in Act scheduled for Friday, families from across the state came to the Capitol on Wednesday to tell their personal healthcare stories and to explain their support for Medicaid Buy-in.

“My family didn’t have health insurance,” said Richard Ranger from McKinley County. “Then we started getting medical bills and I knew we needed it. But when I applied for Medicaid, I found out we were making too much money to qualify. Medicaid Buy-in would really help people like me who are stuck in the middle without insurance.”

Ranger is not alone. Recent polling shows that 74 percent of New Mexicans—across party affiliations—support Medicaid Buy-in.

“If you don’t have insurance, you don’t exist,” said Maria Burciaga from Doña County. “Medicaid Buy-in would give more people the coverage they need to be able to see a doctor.”

Burciaga and Ranger are just two of the more than 240 New Mexicans who traveled to the Roundhouse Wednesday as part of Strong Families New Mexico’s Legislative Day—an annual event that allows families to talk with legislators about the real impacts that policy decisions have on their daily lives.

“Families should not have to choose between putting food on the table and getting healthcare,” said Adriann Barboa, Field Director of Strong Families New Mexico. “Medicaid Buy-in will ensure that families from McKinley County to Doña County have access to quality, affordable healthcare. Our families are here today to make sure legislators hear that message loud and clear.”

Medicaid Buy-in would allow certain New Mexicans to pay for the trusted health insurance coverage that Medicaid has provided families for more than 50 years. Specifically, those eligible for Medicaid Buy-in would include those not currently eligible for Medicaid, Medicare or the subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act.

HB 416, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Armstrong and cosponsored by Speaker Brian Egolf and Rep. Nathan Small, will be heard Friday morning by the House Health and Human Services Committee. SB 405, the Senate companion bill sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino with 11 senators cosponsoring, has been referred to the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial coalition of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New MexicoNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, Health Action New Mexico and United States of Care. The campaign’s website is http://nmtogether4health.org/ Follow the campaign on Facebook @NMTogether4Healthcare and Twitter @NMT4HC.