Medicaid buy-in works for working families

By Richard Ranger
This appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican on March 8, 2019

When my wife and I first got married, we didn’t have health insurance. We didn’t think we needed it. We were young and healthy. Plus, even though we both worked multiple jobs, none of our employers provided health coverage, so there wasn’t an obvious way to even get insurance.

All of that changed once we found out that we were expecting a baby.

We quickly realized that we could not afford the doctor bills. The cost of prenatal visits, prenatal vitamins and specialty care added up fast. We talked it over and decided to apply for Medicaid. Unfortunately for us — like so many other New Mexicans — we made slightly too much money to qualify for Medicaid, and we certainly couldn’t afford overwhelming costs of private insurance. The premiums, deductibles and prescription drug costs were just too much for our family to bear.

We had to make difficult decisions to get health coverage. We didn’t have any other options. It was clear that Medicaid was the coverage that made sense for our family because it covered all of the essential services we needed without saddling us with medical debt. Fortunately, a change in our financial situation allowed us to reapply and finally qualify for Medicaid.

Medicaid was a huge help. Doctors’ appointments were easy to make and we finally had access to quality, affordable health care. As a result, we are the proud parents of Isaak, our 6-year-old son who brings us joy every day. We are grateful that he is healthy and grateful that Medicaid helped make that happen.

As much as my family would like to pursue better economic opportunities, we worry that the high cost of health care will risk our family’s health and financial well-being. Unfortunately, in order to keep the health insurance we need, we’ve had to put off pursuing careers in our community. We aren’t being true to ourselves and working the way that we always talked about. And the only thing that’s holding us back is our need for health coverage. That’s not the way things should be.

Fortunately, there is an option to help families like ours: Medicaid buy-in. It’s a simple idea that would allow families who don’t currently qualify for Medicaid or Medicare and who can’t get subsidized insurance through the Affordable Care Act to pay reasonable monthly premiums for the quality, trusted coverage provided by Medicaid. My wife and I know how well Medicaid takes care of families. We have a strong son as proof. We would welcome the opportunity to work full time again to support our family and be able to pay for health care coverage we trust.

That’s why my whole family — even Isaak — has been speaking out at the New Mexico Legislature in support of the Medicaid Buy-in Act, House Bill 416. We know what Medicaid buy-in would mean to real New Mexico families who want to work and need access to health care. It would mean the chance to work hard, the chance to get ahead and the ability stay healthy. And that means a lot.

My wife and I have learned so much about the legislative process by volunteering with Strong Families New Mexico and speaking out on behalf of our family and those like us in our community. We’ve attended hearings, testified in committees and stayed late into the evening for important votes. I’m glad to say that the bill is moving forward in both the House and Senate. But I am also worried. We need representatives and senators to continue to support Medicaid buy-in and to pass it out of its final committees. With successful floor votes in the House and the Senate, we could send this bill to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has said she would sign it.

We want to be able to tell our son that the Legislature did the right thing and created Medicaid buy-in. New Mexico working families need a health care solution that works for them — the Medicaid buy-in.

Richard Ranger lives in Gallup.

Medicaid Buy-in: An opportunity to improve women’s health in New Mexico

By Sydney Tellez
This appeared in the NM Political Report on March 1, 2019.

We have the opportunity in New Mexico to become a national champion for women’s healthcare by creating a Medicaid Buy-In.

This straightforward proposal, championed in the Legislature by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Rep. Debbie Armstrong, will allow some New Mexico families to pay for the trusted care that Medicaid already provides.

I know personally how Medicaid helps women and families right now. My sister-in-law was rear-ended while seven months pregnant, bringing my beautiful nephew into the world prematurely. Fortunately, they were already covered by Medicaid and didn’t have to be overly worried about the cost of care while they were frightened for their newborn son’s well being. As a result, little Bodhi is healthy–and his parents weren’t bankrupted by medical bills.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality for the 190,000 New Mexicans still living without health coverage. The result? Women and families of color in underserved communities have the highest rate of maternal death and infant mortality. A Buy-in plan will substantially impact these families’ ability to access prenatal and postpartum care–especially during emergencies like the one my sister-in-law faced.

When Medicaid was enacted more than half a century ago, no one imagined that the program would become the backbone of coverage for millions of women. Today, Medicaid provides health and long-term coverage to more than 1 in 10 women in New Mexico. In fact, Medicaid covers 72 percent of all births in New Mexico, helping to deliver healthy babies and to support new moms. Medicaid is also instrumental in providing coverage essential for healthy pregnancies. It covers prenatal visits and vitamins, ultrasounds and amniocentesis, childbirth by vaginal or cesarean delivery, and 60 days of postpartum care. That’s healthcare access that women and their families can count on.

Many New Mexico women and families, however, do not qualify for Medicaid. But they still struggle to make ends meet, choosing between keeping food on the table or paying for health insurance. Additionally, the coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act can be too costly to these families because they make too much money to access the ACA premium subsidies and they make too little to be able to afford the cost of falling ill.  Still, access to healthcare is crucial for New Mexico families, especially during pregnancy and for family planning.

Under a Medicaid Buy-in plan, eligible women would have access to health services, including prenatal and postpartum care. The care that Medicaid, through a Buy-in, can provide during and after pregnancy enhances the likelihood of healthier pregnancies and better birth outcomes.

Additionally, a Medicaid Buy-in plan could benefit aging New Mexico women. For elderly women who meet income eligibility requirements, Medicaid covers high-cost services provided in a skilled nursing facility, as well as home- and community-based healthcare for women who are entitled to nursing facility services. Aging New Mexicans who do not qualify for Medicaid today, under a Buy-in system, could rely on Medicaid for healthcare related to a physical or mental disability or chronic condition, treatment for breast or cervical cancer, and even long-term care services.

New Mexico is already a frontrunner for women’s reproductive health because of our thoughtful laws to respect the personal decisions parents and families make regarding abortion. A natural next step is for New Mexico to create a Medicaid Buy-in, which would propel New Mexico to the top of the list for women’s access to healthcare overall.

New Mexico families, women and communities embody resilience in the face of adversity. With reproductive healthcare access under attack federally, New Mexicans are leading the way to protect women, families and future generations. We must take the same proactive approach to protecting women’s access to quality healthcare by creating a Medicaid Buy-in. That is why the Southwest Women’s Law Center supports a Medicaid Buy-in and urges legislators to vote for this bill that supports New Mexico women and their families.

Sydney Tellez is the Policy Advocate for the Southwest Women’s Law Center.

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.

New Mexicans Who Want to Participate in Medicaid Buy-in to Share Personal Stories at Capitol

Patients with Chronic Disease, Grandparents want Buy-in for families, communities

New Mexicans who would benefit from a Medicaid Buy-in will come to the state Capitol on Wednesday to share their stories with legislators and media as part of their work to support legislation to create this innovative health coverage program.

Speakers will include patients with chronic diseases who have struggled to pay their medical bills and grandparents whose children have been overwhelmed by the medical bills incurred caring for their own children.

Sponsors of HB416 and SB405, the two Medicaid Buy-in bills, will hear families’ stories and make their own statements on why they were moved to sponsor these key bills.

Who: New Mexicans who want to participate in Medicaid Buy-in. Medicaid Buy-in bill sponsors.

What: Sharing personal stories about why they are advocating for Medicaid Buy-in.

When: Wednesday, February 6, 2019, 12-12:30 p.m.

Where: Room 318, New Mexico State Capitol. Why: To show the positive impact that Medicaid Buy-in could have on New Mexico families.

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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 Mexico, New 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.

Polling Shows Medicaid Buy-in Has Capacity to Cross Political Health Care Divide

Nationally 78 percent of registered voters believe Medicaid Buy-in should be a priority for their state legislature.

Washington, D.C.– Recent polling conducted by United States of Care (US of Care) finds that the majority of Americans, regardless of party, support Medicaid Buy-in proposals as pathways to more affordable health care.

US of Care conducted public opinion research in New Mexico (November 19-21, 2018)–and nationally (November 16-29, 2018)–focused on the idea of Medicaid Buy-in. A buy-in would allow individuals who are not currently eligible for Medicaid to purchase state-sponsored coverage similar to Medicaid.

“Regardless of the politics of the moment, people want to know that if they are sick or injured they can see a doctor and afford their treatment. This research confirms that voters value predictability and security when it comes to health care and that they support policies, like Medicaid Buy-in, that increase access to affordable care,” said Dr. J. Mario Molina, US of Care Founder’s Council member and President of Golden Shore Medical Group.

Our research in New Mexico and nationally shows health care costs and access are among the public’s top concerns. Nationally 88 percent of voters think that health care should be affordable for themselves and their neighbors. In New Mexico, when it came to health care, expense was the top concern among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

The same surveys showed that the idea of Medicaid Buy-in has wide support. In New Mexico, the support was 74 percent overall. Nationally, 78 percent thought the idea was an important next step to affordability.

In the national survey, participants were asked who was best suited to tackle the issue of Medicaid Buy-in and 56 percent think that state governments should lead this charge.

Medicaid Buy-in receives broad support in New Mexico from Democrats, Republicans, and Independents whose support did not dip below 60 percent at 81, 62, and 77 percents respectively. This solid level of support from all political groups further demonstrates that the appeal of buy-in proposals bypasses partisan lines.

“Medicaid Buy-in has strong support with voters of all political stripes in New Mexico for a couple of reasons. First, it places the state in charge of bringing affordable health care to their residents, and second, polls show 66 percent of New Mexicans view the New Mexico Medicaid program positively,” added John McCarthy, Policy Fellow at United States of Care. “States have long been the policy laboratories where new ideas can be developed and tested, and buying into a Medicaid-like plan is no exception.”

“As the Director of Casa de Salud, a clinic that primarily serves uninsured patients as well as patients with Medicaid, I know that the Medicaid Buy-in would be a win for the physical, emotional, and financial well-being of our patients — and a win for the financial, emotional, and overall health of our society. New Mexico deserves a Medicaid Buy-in option,” added Dr. Anjali Taneja, Executive Director of Casa de Salud.

New Mexico Together for Healthcare has been studying this option for nearly two years and knows that it is the most viable option for ensuring access to affordable, quality health care.

Find the complete polling memo here

About United States of Care:
United States of Care is a nonpartisan organization committed to ensuring that every single American has access to quality, affordable health care. The organization supports endorsing state-based policies, building resources to understand current and new ideas, and educating and mobilizing the public to make progress toward this mission.

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