Action Alert: Protect New Mexicans from medical debt!

In 2021, the New Mexico Legislature passed the Patients’ Debt Collection Protection Act. Rules are still needed to implement the law, but the proposed rules are currently missing key protections for patients. This is a critical moment for the public to weigh in.

The new law:

  • Prohibits medical providers and creditors from suing low-income patients or sending them to collections over medical debt.
  • Requires hospitals, urgent care centers, and other healthcare facilities to check if uninsured patients qualify for public programs like Medicaid and to help them enroll.
  • Requires the Office of Superintendent of Insurance (OSI) to issue rules explaining how patients show they qualify for the law’s protections.

Tell OSI that basic protections must be in the rules!

OSI’s proposed rules include several strong provisions. However, to ensure the law actually protects patients from debt, key revisions are needed. These include:

(1) Requiring medical providers and creditors to determine if a patient is low income before suing or sending them to collections. OSI’s proposed rules do not require medical providers or creditors to check a patient’s income before suing or sending a patient to collections.

(2) The protection for low-income patients should not expire after one year. Patients who have shown that they are low income should not have to submit paperwork annually to be protected from lawsuits and being sent to collections for a medical bill. OSI’s proposed rules let this protection expire after one year, which would be burdensome for families and medical providers and leave patients whom the Legislature protected at risk.

How to make your voice heard:

  • Submit written comments with subject line “RE: SB71 Proposed Rules”by September 27 at 4:00 p.m.
    • By email to OSI-docketfiling@state.nm.us
    • By mail to OSI Records & Docketing, NM Office of Superintendent of Insurance, P.O. Box 1689, Santa Fe, NM 87504-1689
  • Speak at a virtual public hearing on September 27, 2021 at 9:00 am. How to join:

New Mexico workers celebrate paid sick leave victory

SANTA FE, NM—After six years of organizing efforts, workers and advocates celebrate Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s signing of the Healthy Workplaces Act into law today. Effective July 1, 2022, workers statewide will be able to accrue one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked and up to 64 hours annually. 

The paid sick leave coalition thanks the sponsors of the bill, Reps. Angelica Rubio, Christine Chandler and Patricia Roybal Caballero and Sens. Mimi Stewart and Linda Lopez, for being true champions for New Mexico workers, and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for her support. 

Workers have been fighting for this legislation for years, sharing personal stories with lawmakers about being forced to go to work sick or risk losing their paycheck. As a result of this tireless work, paid sick leave is finally a reality and will benefit all of New Mexico’s families and communities. This big win illustrates how critical it is for legislators to hear from New Mexicans—the people who stock groceries, care for others’ children, harvest and serve food and keep our communities going throughout the pandemic. New Mexico workers showed up and made their voices heard. 

This statement is signed by the following: 

  • AARP NM
  • NM Comunidades en Acción y de Fe (CAFe)
  • Center for Civic Policy
  • El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos
  • Enlace Comunitario
  • Equality New Mexico
  • National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees District 1199NM
  • New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty
  • New Mexico Working Families Party
  • New Mexico Voices for Children
  • OLÉ, Organizers in the Land of Enchantment
  • Somos un Pueblo Unido
  • United Food Workers of America Local 1564
  • Women Food & Agricultural Network

Statements from workers and organizations across New Mexico:

Carissa Owen, Restaurant worker and NM CAFe leader, (Las Cruces, NM)
“Paid sick leave is long overdue for New Mexico workers. I have seen restaurants fund expansions, marketing, or new concept rollout instead of investments in their biggest assets: their trained and dedicated workforce. This legislation is necessary for the restaurant industry to take employee health seriously.”

Rosa del Carpio, Worker and El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos member, (Albuquerque, NM)
“I have been working in Albuquerque for almost 15 years without access to paid sick leave. I tested positive for Covid-19 after having to risk going to work to put food on the table. I was worried about getting tested in the first place for fear that a positive test result would force me to quarantine without any income in order to survive. What I feared most as a single mother was infecting my nine-year-old son. Thousands of workers around New Mexico find themselves in situations similar to mine. Having access to paid sick leave is not only a racial justice issue: it will save the lives of workers and families in our communities.”

Marshall Martinez, Director of Equality New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM)
“Paid sick leave is critical for LGBTQ New Mexicans. Queer and Trans people work hourly jobs disproportionately and already face extreme systemic barriers to healthcare. HB 20 helps with one of those barriers and will help provide LGBTQ New Mexicans the opportunity to be able to afford the time off to see our healthcare providers.”

Stephanie Welch, Director of Workers’ Rights at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (Albuquerque, NM)
“No one should have to choose between a paycheck and protecting their and their loved ones’ health. Yet half of New Mexicans who work for private employers have to do exactly that because their employer does not provide paid sick leave. This law will ensure that workers get this basic right. We thank the workers from across the state who spoke out and advocated to legislators, and who won this victory.”

Anamaria Dahle, NM Working Families Party member, (Albuquerque, NM)
“Earning paid sick leave will allow me to obtain treatment to heal my injuries inflicted by my ex-husband over a decade ago. I will also be able to keep up with my doctors’ appointments for my autoimmune disease. So often, single parents’ health is put on the back burner. Thank you for passing HB 20.”

Iman Andrade, OLÉ member, (Albuquerque, NM)
“For me, winning paid sick leave means a safer workplace for me and my coworkers. This means people can actually stay home if they have COVID and not spread it to others. Workers need paid sick leave regardless if there is a pandemic. We can keep people safe from spreading colds and flus, especially in the restaurant and grocery industry. Our workforce is going to be much safer and I am so excited that HB 20 has passed the Senate.”

Bellanira Lozano, Somos Un Pueblo Unido member, (Santa Fe, NM)
“I am a single mother of four children and a domestic worker who takes care of elderly people in Santa Fe. The pandemic hit my family hard. We all got sick and didn’t get paid. This law means families like mine won’t have to decide between getting paid or going to work sick. It’s a tremendous victory for New Mexico’s workers.”

Oriana Sandoval, CEO of Center for Civic Policy, (Albuquerque, NM)
“Today we celebrate the passage of House Bill 20–a statewide Paid Sick Leave program for New Mexico workers. This legislation sends a clear message that families shouldn’t have to worry about shattering their family budget and getting buried under healthcare costs because they can’t afford to lose a day’s pay. We look forward to Gov. Michelle Luján Grisham signing this bold policy into law to take a step forward in ensuring New Mexicans have access to every resource they need to overcome the current pandemic and regain their stability–ensuring the success of our children and future generations.”

James Jimenez, Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children (Albuquerque, NM)
“Paid sick leave has long been a missing piece of the child well-being puzzle in New Mexico, with about half of our workforce lacking this basic benefit. The COVID-19 crisis has made this need even more critical, as families have suffered with the health impacts and the loss of job security and wages. The passage of this bill is a watershed moment for kids in our state and will go far in ensuring New Mexico parents and their families have the opportunity to live healthy lives and continue to contribute to a strong recovery. We applaud the Legislature for boldly rising to the greatest challenge of our time to secure this long-needed policy that will benefit the health and economy of our state.”