Trump’s new rule would roll back civil rights protections in healthcare law

Nondiscrimination protections under the ACA are at risk

ALBUQUERQUE—In a move that will especially harm trans people, the LGBTQ+ community, patients who speak languages other than English, and people who need access to abortion services, the Trump administration proposed rolling back enforcement of nondiscrimination protections under the Affordable Care Act. New Mexico advocates who champion access to healthcare urge New Mexicans to publicly oppose Trump’s latest threat to healthcare accessibility.  

The ACA’s landmark nondiscrimination provision, known as Section 1557 or the Health Care Rights Law, protects patients from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability. Comments on proposed changes to Section 1557 must be submitted with the Federal Register by August 13, 2019.

“Discrimination has no place in health care,” said William Townley, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty Healthcare Attorney. “Rolling back Section 1557 would allow discrimination and stereotyping to override patient care. This will endanger the health and lives of many New Mexicans and create needless confusion for providers and patients alike. We encourage individuals and groups to submit public comments with the Federal Register voicing opposition to the rollback of these important legal protections.”

“A patient’s health and wellbeing should always come first,” said Adrian N. Carver, Equality New Mexico Executive Director. “Giving healthcare professionals a license to discriminate against queer and transgender people is unacceptable. Rules that allow providers to ignore standard medical best practices and instead put their personal beliefs before patient health has the potential to gravely harm thousands of people and their families’ health. Our community must submit comment on these rules because, if enacted, these regulations threaten to completely upend the careful balance of religious freedom and other important human rights and instead grant providers a license to put their personal views before the healthcare needs of the patient.” 

The Trump administration is proposing rules that would reinterpret Section 1557 by

  • exempting a broad number of healthcare programs and entities from having to comply with Section 1557’s nondiscrimination provisions;
  • eliminating nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ persons from regulations;
  • ending provisions that ensure people who speak languages other than English receive critical notices in the language they speak; 
  • removing protections against health plan designs that discriminate against people with serious or chronic health conditions.

“In addition to erasing the gender identity of individuals who identify outside of the binary choices of male or female, the proposed rule would gravely harm access to healthcare. The rule would let hospitals and clinics refuse to provide abortions based on religious or conscience concerns, even when there are no other providers in the area that could provide care,” said Terrelene Massey, Southwest Women’s Law Center Executive Director. “In a state such as New Mexico, which is largely rural, people do not always have a choice for where to go. In Santa Fe County, for example, the main provider of healthcare services is Catholic affiliated. Finding a medical provider without religious or conscience concerns would require a person to travel great distances and likely pay additional costs for using a provider out of their insurance network. The proposed Section 1557 changes could result in great bodily harm or even death to some, simply because of where they happen to live.”

Individuals can submit comments on proposed changes to Section 1557 at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/06/14/2019-11512/nondiscrimination-in-health-and-health-education-programs-or-activities

Action Alert: Stop the Trump administration from undermining healthcare rights law

The Trump administration is attempting to undermine enforcement of nondiscrimination protections under the Affordable Care Act. These efforts will especially harm trans people, the LGBTQ+ community, patients who speak languages other than English, and people who need access to abortion services.

The ACA’s landmark nondiscrimination provision, known as Section 1557 or the Health Care Rights Law, protects patients from discrimination based on of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability. 

We encourage individuals and groups to submit comments with the Federal Register opposing the rollback of these important legal protections. Comments are due August 13.

The Trump administration is proposing rules that would reinterpret Section 1557 by:

  • exempting a broad number of healthcare programs and entities from having to comply with Section 1557’s nondiscrimination provisions;
  • eliminating nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ persons from regulations;
  • ending provisions that ensure people who speak languages other than English receive critical notices in the language they speak; 
  • removing protections against health plan designs that discriminate against people with serious or chronic health conditions. 

Discrimination has no place in healthcare. Rolling back section 1557 would allow discrimination and stereotyping to override patient care. This will endanger the health and lives of many New Mexicans and create needless confusion for providers and patients alike. 

To ensure your comment is accepted, please make sure your comment has at least one-third original text. You can submit your comment here:http://eqnm.org/save1557

*Your comment will submitted via Equality NM. EQNM, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and Southwest Women’s Law Center will have access to your comment and contact information.

Sample content for your public comment

  • Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability. This proposed rule attempts to change the administrative implementation of Section 1557 in a way that is contrary to the plain language of the law.
  • New Mexico has some of the highest rates of residents who identify as transgender in the country. In many parts of the state there are areas where only one hospital or health provider could result in less access to healthcare for transgender people. This would result in some traveling far distances to receive critical care, while others may simply not receive any medical care. It is important that nondiscrimination protections are in place for healthcare providers to ensure that patients can access the same care provided to all, no matter who they are. These protections are fundamental for LGBTQ+ patients to be able to access the care they need. 
  • In New Mexico, 29% of respondents experienced a problem last year with their insurance related to being transgender, such as being denied coverage for care related to gender transition or being denied coverage for routine care because they were transgender.
  • Sex discrimination in health care has a disproportionate impact on women of color, LGBTQ+ people and individuals living at the intersections of multiple identities—resulting in them paying more for healthcare, receiving improper diagnoses at higher rates, being provided less effective treatments and sometimes being denied care altogether. The inability to access needed healthcare services could further exacerbate health disparities.
  • Discrimination has no place in healthcare. The delivery of healthcare services in the United States should be premised upon the medical needs of the people, and should not be obstructed by the personal beliefs or ideologies of their healthcare providers.
  • Discrimination on the basis of national origin, which encompasses discrimination on the basis of language, creates unequal access to healthcare. Without meaningful access, millions of individuals will be excluded from programs and services they are legally entitled to, including hundreds of thousands here in New Mexico.

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

Overturning Affordable Care Act would leave nearly 300,000 New Mexicans without healthcare coverage

In a change of course, Trump administration says entire ACA should be struck down as unconstitutional

ALBUQUERQUE—This week the Trump administration announced that it agrees with a federal judge in Texas that the entire Affordable Care Act should be invalidated. Overturning the ACA would impact tens of millions of people who rely on the nine-year-old law for health insurance; in New Mexico, hundreds of thousands of residents would have their healthcare coverage stripped away.

In a significant change of course, on Monday night, President Trump’s Justice Department notified the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, where an appeal is pending in the case, Texas v. United States, that it would file a legal brief arguing that the entire act should be struck down as unconstitutional. A coalition of states is appealing the ruling and asking the appellate court to uphold the ACA.

“It’s shocking that President Trump and the Department of Justice intend to rip away access to healthcare for millions of people across the U.S. and hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans,” said William Townley, attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “Overturning the Affordable Care Act would damage the entire healthcare system, especially for low-income families. Healthcare coverage will become unaffordable for many New Mexicans, pricing them out of the healthcare system and blocking access to medical care.”

The Affordable Care Act provides coverage for hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans. An immediate termination of coverage for so many people has far-reaching and possibly irrevocable consequences in New Mexico.

  • Nearly 300,000 New Mexicans would lose their healthcare coverage through Medicaid expansion or coverage they’ve purchased on the Health Insurance Exchange;
  • Young adults would no longer be able to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26;
  • Small business would lose tax credits that make it affordable to provide healthcare for their employees;
  • Insurance companies would be allowed to deny coverage for those who are suffering from pre-existing conditions; and
  • New Mexico’s economy would be threatened—Medicaid expansion has provided financial security for over 250,000 adults and has brought in federal funding that directly supports healthcare jobs and the healthcare sector overall.

“Healthcare coverage is a lifeline for millions of people across the country,” said Townley. “We should be finding ways to improve access to quality and affordable care rather than making devastating cuts to healthcare.”

Medicaid buy-in will help everyone in New Mexico

Anhdao Bui / Co-Interim Director, New Mexico Asian Family Center
This appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on March 25, 2019.

There are many stories in New Mexico’s Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community about lives cut short by lack of access to health care. As the co-interim director of the New Mexico Asian Family Center (NMAFC), I hear these stories almost daily. Now that funding to develop a Medicaid buy-in plan has passed the Legislature, I urge Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to seize this opportunity to craft a plan that will extend coverage to all New Mexicans. AAPIs and all families need this affordable health care coverage option.

The Medicaid buy-in is an innovative idea that would allow eligible New Mexico residents to pay a reasonable monthly premium for the trusted health care coverage that Medicaid has provided for more than 50 years. That includes preventive care, childbirth and prenatal care, and even specialty care.

For one family that I worked with, New Mexico’s Medicaid buy-in plan is coming too late. But for so many more in our community, it will be a welcomed relief that will finally make life-saving health care affordable and accessible.

Last year, a 55-year-old grandfather came to NMAFC asking for help accessing health care. He had moved from Vietnam to Albuquerque a few years before with his wife. Their daughter had married an American man and started a family of her own here. Working and raising kids, particularly for low-income, immigrant families, can be overwhelming. A multi-generational household can help bridge gaps in childcare and income, and the daughter and son-in-law were grateful to have her parents living with them.

Shortly after arriving in Albuquerque, though, the grandfather began experiencing severe headaches. Without financial resources, he was unable to access care in the United States. It wasn’t until he made a trip back to Vietnam that he went to a doctor. The news was devastating: He had brain cancer.

Back in New Mexico, he was ineligible for Medicaid because he had not been in the state for five years. Desperate to get treatment, he and his wife moved again. This time to California where he could access Medicaid. He began chemotherapy, but the treatment made him weak and, without being able to work, he couldn’t afford the cost of rent, food and basic necessities. He and his wife had to move back in with their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren in Albuquerque. He was with his family, but he was without care.

When I started working with him through the center, he had gone many months without any treatment. He was weak, and his family was scared. I was able to get an exception for him to receive coverage through UNM Care. He briefly resumed treatment, but, I am sad to say, died a few months ago.

Timely access to affordable health care could have saved – or at the very least prolonged – this man’s life, giving him more time with his family. It is not too much to ask that our elders be able to see a doctor, and to see their grandchildren grow up.

Talk to any of the more than 40,000 AAPIs living in New Mexico and you will hear a similar story. A friend who lost a limb because she couldn’t afford medical attention until it was too late. A cousin who died from pneumonia as a result of the flu. A grandchild born prematurely due to inadequate access to prenatal care. It’s time to change the way families access health care.

With a Medicaid buy-in plan in place, New Mexicans, including those like the grandfather I worked with, will be able to get covered and get care – without fear of bankrupting themselves or their families.

We cannot change that family’s story. It’s too late. But, by adopting a Medicaid buy-in plan in New Mexico, we can provide a better quality of life for the thousands of other New Mexicans – in the Asian Pacific Islander community and around the state – who lack health care coverage.

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.”

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.