Community Engagement and Healthcare Rights

Simple, easy to understand information to help New Mexico’s children and families navigate the healthcare system is very scarce. It is not surprising that many people do not know about their healthcare options or run into barriers and inaccurate information during the application process or while seeking care.

The Center serves as a legal resource and information hub on healthcare policy and programs. We work with our communities to investigate and address systemic problems, and we provide legal representation to individuals in certain cases. We also develop and deliver high-quality training and materials to agencies, advocates, and the general public about their healthcare rights and opportunities to engage in advocacy.

To learn more, visit our page Understanding Your Rights to Healthcare. For information on training and outreach events, visit our Request a Training page. All of our healthcare materials are also available online in our Resource Library.

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Increasing Access to Hospitals and Indigent Care Programs

New Mexico’s hospitals are required by law to offer financial assistance to low-income patients, and most counties provide indigent care programs to help pay for hospital services and healthcare in other settings. This system of hospital and county programs has been especially important for people who either cannot afford health insurance or who are not required to get insurance under the law, such as many immigrants and Native Americans.

In Bernalillo County, the University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) is specifically entrusted with the responsibility of caring for low-income patients through its lease agreement and public funding streams. UNMH also has a special contractual obligation to ensure Native Americans are not charged for services and receive priority access. However, UNMH has not fulfilled these obligations. The Center has been working with key community partners for many years to push UNMH to provide adequate financial assistance programs to low-income residents. Most recently, we helped lead a campaign with local partners to encourage Bernalillo County to open a lease negotiation with UNMH and ensure the Hospital provides a safety net that meets county residents’ needs.

The Center is also working to improve financial assistance policies at other New Mexico hospitals, including at Presbyterian Healthcare Services, the largest nonprofit hospital in the state. We have been evaluating the policies at these hospitals and advocating for improvements. Additionally, Center staff have provided technical and legal expertise to encourage county governments across New Mexico to develop strong indigent care programs, and we have supported legislative efforts to maintain funding for these programs.

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Early Childhood Services for Low-Income Families

Home visiting programs provide critical assistance to families, ranging from healthcare to emotional and social support, at a crucial time in a child’s brain development. The Center has been a leader in promoting the creation of a Medicaid-financed home visiting system in New Mexico. Over 70% of children born in New Mexico are Medicaid eligible, but state-funded home visiting programs currently only serve 8% of our children. 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. A Medicaid-financed home visiting system that is culturally and linguistically appropriate can be transformational in the healthy development of New Mexico’s children.

Our Resources

http://nmpovertylaw.org/find-services-and-benefits/understanding-your-rights-to-healthcare/

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Access to Quality, Affordable Healthcare

Healthcare coverage for all New Mexicans – Despite significant progress in recent years, more than 180,000 New Mexicans are still uninsured, mainly because health insurance costs are still too high. New Mexico could address the affordability problem by leveraging a popular and trusted public healthcare plan–Medicaid. We are advocating for an innovative Medicaid Buy-in plan that would allow New Mexicans who do not qualify for Medicaid now to purchase a state plan that offers comprehensive medical services at a more affordable price than private insurance. Learn more about NM Together for Healthcare, coordinated by the Center and our community partners and families, at: www.nmtogether4health.org.

Removing barriers to Medicaid – The Center regularly identifies and resolves barriers to accessing Medicaid, using our expertise in Medicaid law, administration, and regulations. We focus especially on increasing enrollment in Medicaid and access to necessary medical services for communities that experience disproportionate barriers, including Native American and immigrant communities.

Sustaining Medicaid funding and preventing cuts – Medicaid is a cornerstone of our healthcare system, serving more than 800,000 New Mexicans, but it has repeatedly been a target for cuts at the state and national levels. The Center advocates to ensure that our state legislature adequately funds the Medicaid program and avoids cuts to eligibility or services. We also monitor and respond to federal threats to cut Medicaid and that would undermine access to healthcare for low-income New Mexicans.

To learn how to apply for Medicaid, please visit our page How to Apply for Public Benefits.

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